New Directions in Critical Theory:

Rethinking Anti-Semitism Today

Pro-Israeli protesters with an Israeli flag confront Ultra-Orthodox Jewish anti-Zionism protesters who joined a pro-Palestinian demonstration. Image by Getty Images

Jonathan Judaken

Gloria M. Goldstein Chair of Jewish History and Thought
Washington University in St. Louis

Despite its persistence and viciousness, anti-Semitism remains undertheorized in comparison with other forms of racism and discrimination. How should anti-Semitism be defined? What are its underlying causes? Why do anti-Semites target Jews? In what ways has Judeophobia changed over time? What are the continuities and disconnects between medieval anti-Judaism and the Holocaust? How does criticism of the state of Israel relate to anti-Semitism? And how can social theory illuminate the upsurge in attacks on Jews today?


Prof. Jonathan Judaken explores the methodological and conceptual issues that have vexed the study of Judeophobia and calls for a reconsideration of the definitions, categories, and narratives that underpin overarching explanations. He traces how a range of thinkers have wrestled with these challenges, examining the theories of Jean-Paul Sartre, the Frankfurt School, Hannah Arendt, and Jean-François Lyotard, alongside the works of sociologists Talcott Parsons and Zygmunt Bauman and historians Léon Poliakov and George Mosse. Judaken argues against claims about the uniqueness of Judeophobia, demonstrating how it is entangled with other racisms: Islamophobia, Negrophobia, and xenophobia. Judaken not only urges the audience to question how they think about Judeophobia but also draws them into conversation with a range of leading thinkers whose insights are sorely needed in this perilous moment.

Time will be allocated for Q&A.

This program is part of the ColumbiaDC CUP series.

Jonathan Judaken is the Gloria M. Goldstein Chair of Jewish History and Thought at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of ~50 academic articles on the history of existentialism, anti-Semitism, racism, critical theory, and on post-Holocaust French Jewish thought. He has written, edited, or co-edited seven books. He published the monograph Jean-Paul Sartre and the Jewish Question: Anti-antisemitism and the Politics of the French Intellectual (Nebraska, 2006), edited Race After Sartre: Antiracism, Africana Existentialism, Postcolonialism (SUNY 2008) and Naming Race, Naming Racisms (Routledge 2009), and co-edited (with Robert Bernasconi), Situating Existentialism: Key Texts in Context (Columbia 2012) and (with Karen Golightly) Memphis: 200 Years Together (Susan Schadt Press 2019). His most recent book is The Albert Memmi Reader (co-edited with Michael Lejman), a compendium of the Tunisian Franco-Jewish writer’s work (Nebraska, 2020), for which he wrote the Introduction. His new monograph, Critical Theories of Anti-Semitism, will come out in May in Columbia University Press’ “New Directions in Critical Theory” series.

Alongside these books, he edited and wrote the lead article for a round table in the American Historical Review titled, “Rethinking Anti-Semitism” (October 2018) and co-edited and introduced a special issue of Jewish History (with Ethan Katz) on “Jews and Muslims in France Before and After Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher” (September 2018).

He has visited both Israel and South Africa as a Fulbright Senior Specialist (Summer 2011 and Summer 2013) and he was previously a scholar-in-residence at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2006-2007). He was a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at Harvard (2000) and at College of Charleston (2019).

He is U.S. Contributing Editor for the journal Patterns of Prejudice, on the Associate Editorial Board for the journal Critical Philosophy of Race, the Editorial Board for Jewish Historical Studies, and serves on the international board of scholars for Facing History and Ourselves. He was a founding member of the International Consortium for Research on Antisemitism and Racism.

Judaken has published journalistic and op-ed pieces in Ha’aretz, Inside Higher Ed, the Huffington Post, Tablet, Tikkun, and the Forward. For seven years, he hosted a monthly radio show on NPR-WKNO for the MidSouth called “Counterpoint” that focused on academic and intellectual contributions to discussions in the public sphere and created and long-voiced a weekly segment on WKNO called “Spotlight on Lifelong Learning” that still runs.

CUP Series: This is a new initiative between ColumbiaDC and Columbia University Press to showcase acclaimed and pioneering work by renowned academics, scholars, and researchers published by the Columbia University Press.

May 01, 2024 at 6:30pm - 8pm


Washington, DC
United States

Miyako Yerick


Will you come?