The politics of definition: does defining racism help overcome it?

Seminar Series: Antisemitism Now

Event Information and Booking

15th November, 2023
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Rebecca Ruth Gould, SOAS and Marc Volovici, University of Haifa
Free seminar for scholars. Click the link below or contact for further information.
Antisemitism, Hate crime legislation, IHRA working definition, Islamophobia, Prejudice, Race / Racism
21st century
Clifford Geertz, John Rawls

In this seminar, Marc Volovici and Rebecca Ruth Gould will consider the value and limits of definitions in confronting antisemitism and Islamophobia and the potential merits of alternative approaches.

Marc Volovici co-editor (with David Feldman) of Antisemitism, Islamophobia and the Politics of Definition (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023) will draw on the essays collected in this volume to consider the different historical and political circumstances which have shaped definitions of Jews and Muslims, antisemitism and Islamophobia over time and to offer a new perspective on how these successive definitions should be understood. Recent years have witnessed a widespread turn to definitions as a means of combatting racism. Rebecca Ruth Gould’s paper, entitled ‘Does Defining Racism Help Overcome it?’, will draw on her contribution to the book. She will probe the limits of this definitional turn and will suggest an alternative means of combatting racism in everyday life.

Rebecca Ruth Gould is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Poetics and Global Politics, at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her books include: Erasing Palestine: Free Speech and Palestinian Freedom (Verso, 2023); The Persian Prison Poem: Sovereignty and the Political Imagination (Edinburgh University Press, 2021); and Writers and Rebels: The Literature of Insurgency in the Caucasus (Yale University Press, 2016). She has written on the challenges of defining antisemitism and respecting free speech for Prospect Magazine, Jacobin, Political Quarterly, and Middle East Eye, among other venues.

Marc Volovici is Alfred Landecker Lecturer at the University of Haifa’s department of Jewish History. Together with David Feldman, he is the co-editor of Antisemitism, Islamophobia and the Politics of Definition (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023). Marc is the author of German as a Jewish Problem: The Language Politics of Jewish Nationalism (Stanford University Press, 2020). He served as an academic advisor and co-edited the exhibition catalogue for the 2019 exhibition ‘Jews, Money, Myth’, developed in collaboration with the Jewish Museum London. Marc is a Research Fellow at the Bucerius Institute for Research of Contemporary German History and Society, and the Haifa Interdisciplinary Unit for Polish Studies. His new project explores the question of public self-criticism in modern Jewish politics.

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