Debates on Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Anti-Muslim Racism in a Post-Nazi and Post-Colonial Research Setting

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Hörsaal 31 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Julia EDTHOFER, University of Vienna, Austria
In my presentation I illustrate theoretical omissions of academic debates on the current relation of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism in the German-speaking context and show how they intermingle with conflicting political stances regarding the Middle East conflict.  

Approaches focusing current anti-Semitism predominantly follow Adorno´s and Horkheimer´s analysis of the resentment as “negative leitmotif” of modernity, while perspectives on anti-Muslim racism mostly take a Saidian post-colonial stance. Thereby, academic debates reflect competitions of victimization: one side focuses the rise of anti-Semitism within European Muslim communities but dismisses anti-Muslim resentment; the other side emphasizes the rise of anti-Muslim racism and does not grasp the specifity of anti-Semitism but rather frames Jewish communities as “white” and part of post-colonial European dominant societies. Both omissions culminate when the Middle East conflict and/or Israel turn into a “signifier” in the debates: while post-colonial perspectives frame Israel as oppressive settler colony and falsely explain current anti-Semitism by its mere existence, the other side frames the Israeli state solely as historical consequence of the Holocaust and dismisses anti-Muslim implications of a criticism of “new, islamized anti-Semitism”.    

Concluding, I thus propose to correlate the criticism of anti-Muslim racism and anti-Semitism. Theoretically, overlaps and differences of the resentments should be discussed and one starting point could be Hannah Arendt´s historical-analytical work on the interrelation of imperialism, colonial racism(s) and the rise of European anti-Semitism. Regarding academic-political debates, a reflection of the discursive function of the Middle East conflict as "projection surface" is needed. In line with these conclusions, I suggest to relate anti-Semitism theory to post-colonial perspectives and post-colonial analyses of anti-Muslim racism to the research of anti-Semitism in order to grasp the specifity of the two resentments as well as pitfalls of the analysis.