Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Race, Color, Identity

Race, Color, Identity: Rethinking Discourses about "Jews" in the Twenty-First Century

Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 398
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Race, Color, Identity
    Book Description:

    Advances in genetics are renewing controversies over inherited characteristics, and the discourse around science and technological innovations has taken on racial overtones, such as attributing inherited physiological traits to certain ethnic groups or using DNA testing to determine biological links with ethnic ancestry. This book contributes to the discussion by opening up previously locked concepts of the relation between the terms color, race, and "Jews", and by engaging with globalism, multiculturalism, hybridity, and diaspora. The contributors-leading scholars in anthropology, sociology, history, literature, and cultural studies-discuss how it is not merely a question of whether Jews are acknowledged to be interracial, but how to address academic and social discourses that continue to place Jews and others in a race/color category.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-893-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. x-xviii)
    Sander L. Gilman

    Race, Color, Identityis an important document in the ongoing debates about the relationship of older and contemporary discourses of race in the age of modern genetics that have seemingly recycled the debates of the first age of biology in the late nineteenth century. Our second age of biology seems to be repeating the claims (albeit with substantially different evidence) of the first. But, as usual, the Greeks know best: Plato noted in theCratylus(402a), “Heraclitus, I believe, says that all things go and nothing stays, and comparing existents to the flow of a river, he says you could...

  5. INTRODUCTION: Rethinking Discourses about “Jews”
    (pp. 1-32)
    Efraim Sicher

    Over twenty-five years have passed since Henry Gates published “Race,”Writing and Difference,¹ but in the second decade of the twenty-first century the concept of race is back in the center of academic and ideological discussion. Of course, “race” is a mythical construct and socially constructed. Advances in genetics have renewed the controversies over inherited characteristics and the pathology of congenital diseases, as well as the linking of Ashkenazic Jews with high intelligence.² While there may be obvious benefits of premarital screening among Jews for hereditary diseases, genetic testing opens up a number of ethical and social issues, such as...

  6. Part I. Jews and Race in America

    • CHAPTER 1 “I’m Not White—I’m Jewish”: The Racial Politics of American Jews
      (pp. 35-55)
      Cheryl Greenberg

      The election of an African American to the U.S. presidency in 2008 prompted Americans to reflect on the changing roles of race and color in the United States. Is there something about American Jews’ relationship with color and race that might be instructive for scholars of race in America? Is there something about the changing roles of race and color in the United States that might be instructive for scholars of American Jews? In the United States, a nation without a history of Jewish persecution and a nation that from its inception guaranteed religious freedom, Jewish immigrants found themselves remarkably...

    • CHAPTER 2 “The Stolen Garment”: Historical Reflections on Blacks and Jews in the Time of Obama
      (pp. 56-76)
      Ibrahim Sundiata

      Barack Obama, elected forty-fourth president of the United States in 2008, may well be the beneficiary of an ongoing African American–Jewish alliance. One of the president’s Chicago supporters hyperbolically exclaimed, “Jews made him. Wherever you look there is a Jewish presence.”¹ Another supporter, Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, who died in 2010, believed the president is “embedded in the Jewish world.”² This may be exaggerated, but it is undeniable that Obama has long had a coterie of Jewish friends and associates. More significantly, in 2008, 78 percent of Jews voted for Obama as compared with 43 percent of the White...

    • CHAPTER 3 Stains, Plots, and the Neighbor Thing: Jews, Blacks, and Philip Roth’s Readers
      (pp. 77-95)
      Adam Zachary Newton

      “Inappropriateness is the Jewish style,” says a character named Smiles-burger toward the end of Philip Roth’s 1993 novel,Operation Shylock.“We talk too much, we say too much, and we do not know when to stop. Part of the Jewish problem is that they never know what voice to speak in. Refined? Rabbinical? Hysterical? Ironical? Part of the Jewish problem is that the voice is too loud. Too insistent. Too aggressive. No matter what he says or how he says it, it’s inappropriate.”¹ The characterization is echoed in Roth’sThe Plot Against America(2004), where New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia...

    • CHAPTER 4 Urban Space and the Racial–Ethnic Difference: Jews Without Money and Home to Harlem
      (pp. 96-111)
      Catherine Rottenberg

      In the past two decades, scholars have become increasingly interested in tracing the genealogy of the category of ethnicity in the United States. Indeed, recent scholarship has convincingly argued that the construction of race and the construction of ethnicity have had very different historical trajectories in the United States, and that ethnicity as a category of identity evolved out of a discourse of race, which itself revolved around the poles of whiteness and blackness.¹ Eric Goldstein and others have demonstrated that ethnicity as a concept only gained widespread currency in mid-twentieth-century America when minority groups, such as the Jews, began...

    • CHAPTER 5 African American Culture, Anthropological Practices, and the Jewish Race in Zora Neale Hurston’s Mules and Men
      (pp. 112-128)
      Dalit Alperovich

      This chapter examines the ways in which Zora Neale Hurston’s collection of African American folklore inMules and Men(1935) identifies strategic and self-serving dimensions to Jewish anthropologists’ engagement with African American culture and sheds light on the role Boasian anthropological practices played in consolidating negotiated definitions of whiteness in the 1920s and 1930s.Mules and Menportrays African American oral cultural productions from the rural South. The work presents oral folktales about the time when slavery was common, mythic creation stories, songs and sermons, and is part of the modern anthropological tradition. The ethnography was written under the guidance...

    • CHAPTER 6 Jewish Characters in Weeds: Reinserting Race into the Postmodern Discourse on American Jews
      (pp. 129-144)
      Shlomi Deloia and Hannah Adelman Komy Ofir

      While identifiably Jewish characters have featured on popular American television for decades, only recently have scholars given them their attention.¹ In his studySomething Ain’t Kosher Here:The Rise of the “Jewish” Sitcom,Vincent Brook argues that the prevalence of Jewish protagonists in sitcoms from the early 1990s can be “explained partly as a response to changing industrial conditions in American television, partly as a complex negotiation of assimilationist and multiculturalist pressures specific to the Jewish American experience.”² His study supports the often-reiterated claim that “stereotyping has been seminal to the formation of Jewish identity.”³ As Brook and others demonstrate,...

  7. Part II. Jews as Blacks / Black Jews

    • CHAPTER 7 A Member of the Club? How Black Jews Negotiate Black Anti-Semitism and Jewish Racism
      (pp. 147-166)
      Bruce D. Haynes

      This chapter uses a sociological lens to evaluate how American Black Jews, that is, individuals with one Black parent and one Jewish parent, negotiate the realities of Jewish racism and Black anti-Semitism in their various communities. In particular I examine how their sense of belonging, that is, the extent to which their claims to both a Black and Jewish identity are accepted within their respective reference groups, impacts their responses to incidents of racism or anti-Semitism. The analysis is based on a series of in-depth interviews conducted between 1998 and 2001, following a period when tensions between Black and Jewish...

    • CHAPTER 8 Ethiopian Immigrants in Israel: The Discourses of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Racism
      (pp. 167-181)
      Steven Kaplan

      The arrival in Israel of more than eighty thousand Ethiopian immigrants has implications for the study of discourses about race that extend well beyond the borders of a single state. The immigration of a Black African group to a country perceived as predominantly White, with virtually no previous experience of such a population is rare, if not unique, in the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries.¹ When it is also noted that these Ethiopians came to Israel neither for short-term educational programs nor to serve as guest workers, but to take their place as part of the dominant Jewish majority in the...

    • CHAPTER 9 Black Jews in Academic and Institutional Discourse
      (pp. 182-195)
      Jonas Zianga

      This biblical passage from the book of Zephaniah 3:10 is one of the traditional Jewish sources for the existence of an African Jewish Diaspora, indicating a Jewish presence on the Sub-Saharan part of Black Africa from early times. In fact, the biblical narrative played a crucial role in the initial widespread belief in the continued existence of the lost tribes of Israel. Accounts by Jewish travelers, such as Eldad the Danite (ninth century), Benjamin of Tudela and Ovadiah of Bertinoro (twelfth century),¹ as well as reports by Arab travelers during the medieval period, such as Leo Africanus (1483–1554) and...

    • CHAPTER 10 The Descendants of David of Madagascar: Crypto-Judaism in Twentieth-Century Africa
      (pp. 196-214)
      Edith Bruder

      Throughout Africa, interpretations of the Hebrew Bible and analogies of the experiences of Blacks and Jews have provided models for Africans to identify themselves with the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel.¹ Starting in the early Middle Ages, legends disseminated among Jews as well as non-Jews supporting the existence of Jewish kingdoms in East and West Africa gained in popularity and influence. The genealogy unearthed by the travel accounts of Jewish travelers such as Eldad the Danite in the ninth century or Benjamin of Tudela in the twelfth century still have relevance and resonance for a surprising number of...

  8. Part III. Discourses of Racial and Ethnic Identities

    • CHAPTER 11 After the Fact: “Jews” in Post-1945 German Physical Anthropology
      (pp. 217-233)
      Amos Morris-Reich

      This chapter focuses on discourse about “Jews” in writings by German physical anthropologists between the collapse of Nazi Germany in 1945 and the beginning of the 1990s. Physical anthropology is arguably the discipline most strongly associated with the idea of race.¹ A basic tension can be discerned that pertains to two aspects of the wider history of German physical anthropology. First, physical anthropology was (and still is) a field not only intimately associated with scientific writing on race but is practically founded on the concept of race; and, second, the discussion of Jews as a racial group was integral to...

    • CHAPTER 12 Genes as Jewish History?: Human Population Genetics in the Service of Historians
      (pp. 234-246)
      Noa Sophie Kohler and Dan Mishmar

      Genealogical records of Jews, which form, in a sense, a genetic history, may be found in the Pentateuch and therefore are an essential part of the Jewish religious heritage. In the book of Genesis, we learn of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, after which we are told of the “book of the generations of Adam” (or, according to the interpretation of Ben Azai, cited by Samson Raphael Hirsch, “the book of the generations of mankind”).¹ Traditionally, mankind is seen as one large family that gave rise to a branch forming the dynasty founded on the offspring of Abraham, Sarah,...

    • CHAPTER 13 Sarrazin and the Myth of the Jewish Gene
      (pp. 247-260)
      Klaus Hödl

      In fall 2009, the Berlin journalLettre Internationalconducted an interview with Thilo Sarrazin, a member of the German Social Democratic Party, former member of the executive board of the Deutsche Bank, and senator for finances in the Berlin local assembly. In a conversation about Berlin and its Muslim population, Sarrazin spoke derogatorily about Muslim immigrants and, among other things, criticized their inadequate efforts to acquire sufficiently good educational skills for social achievement. He also compared them with East European Jews who, in his opinion, had an IQ that was 15 percent above the average level of the (non-Jewish) German...

    • CHAPTER 14 Blood, Soul, Race, and Suffering: Full-Bodied Ethnography and Expressions of Jewish Belonging
      (pp. 261-280)
      Fran Markowitz

      Seeking to destabilize static truths about the Jews as an unchanging and uncanny people, this essay advances a full-bodied ethnography that, with its double focus on the embodied subjects of research and the bodies of researchers, and the meanings conveyed by both, involves mutual participation in the social process: ethnographers and their hosts together enact and hence entrench cultural categories. Yet at the same time the unmediated sensual interactions of full-bodied ethnography also challenge, if not blow apart, the verity of these categories. A review of fieldwork that I conducted among Jews, non-Jews, and those precariously placed on the Jewish...

    • CHAPTER 15 Jews, Muslims, European Identities: Multiculturalism and Anti-Semitism in Britain
      (pp. 281-307)
      Efraim Sicher

      The year 1656 is historically known for the resettlement of Jews in England (though the edict of expulsion of 1290 was never formally revoked). The Sephardic Jews who traveled from Amsterdam to England became wealthy and assimilated, but their status as aliens remained anomalous until the second half of the nineteenth century. They were followed from the early nineteenth century by a wave of mainly impoverished German and East European Jews who were racialized and Orientalized before they too became Anglicized by the mid-twentieth century. Today, British Jews are for the most part well integrated and successful. And yet Shalom...

    • CHAPTER 16 Brothers in Misery: Reconnecting Sociologies of Racism and Anti-Semitism
      (pp. 308-323)
      Glynis Cousin and Robert Fine

      There was a time when antiracists like W.E.B. Du Bois and Frantz Fanon sustained an interest in how anti-Semitism and racism articulate with each other. This interest appears to have been downplayed in contemporary studies. Du Bois is often quoted as declaring in 1903, “[T]he twentieth century is the century of the color line.”¹ Yet he revised that declaration in the light of his observation of the ill treatment of Poles under German domination and his growing awareness of the horrors of anti-Semitism. In the 1930s, Du Bois made academic visits to Berlin under Nazi rule and witnessed Nazi violence...

    • CHAPTER 17 Race by the Grace of God: Race, Religion, and the Construction of “Jew” and “Arab”
      (pp. 324-343)
      Ivan Davidson Kalmar

      Race and religion have each in recent decades been radically rethought. Race is no longer thought of as an objective category, and even as an imaginative construction it no longer depends only on skin color.¹ As for religion, it no longer depends entirely on dogma or even on ritual expressions of faith; it is now commonplace to speak of Western civilization as Christian in the cultural and imaginative, rather than a strictly theological sense. As Jean-Luc Nancy has put it, “The only current atheism is one that contemplates its Christian roots. … Christianity is coextensive with the West.”² Such cultural...

  9. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 344-363)
  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 364-369)
  11. Index
    (pp. 370-380)