Mendel Kranz: On the Borders of Europe: Zionism and (Post) Colonialism in Memmi and Levinas

Mendel Kranz

PhD Student, Philosophy of Religions

On the Borders of Europe: Zionism and (Post) Colonialism in Memmi and Levinas

This paper tracks the shifting articulations of Judaism as it emerges in France in the latter half of the 20th century—a France, that is, still contending with the Shoah and already deep within the throes of decolonization. This historical moment, I suggest, offers a particularly illuminating window through which to understand how the figure of the Jew is established, paradoxically, inside and outside of Europe, perpetuating a European colonial project in the State of Israel while concomitantly functioning at the site of a political-philosophical critique of the West. In the thinkers and writers analyzed here, the figure of the Jew emerges in a surprising series of moves in a liminal space between these two poles—critique and engagement, antagonists and protagonists, inside but not of the West. It is this series of movements that I want to track here.

Part theoretical exploration part critical genealogy, I ask how this double movement took place. By first engaging with and critiquing recent attempts to think about postcolonialism and Jewishness together, I turn to Albert Memmi and Emmanuel Levinas, who serve as fertile examples for why such models fail to adequately account for the complexity of the problem. For both of them the question is the same: how were they theorizing the position of the Jew in relation to the West and what role did Zionism play? Finally, I ask what such reversals might indicate about our attempts to consider the intertwined histories of Europe, (post) colonialism, Jewishness, and Zionism.

Wednesday, February 20, 12:30 PM, Swift 400

Refreshments provided

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