The historical relationship between antisemitism and Orientalism is usually understood according to their overlapping representations of Jews and Muslims. In this talk, I begin by asking whether nineteenth century French antisemitism and Orientalism might also be considered from the standpoint of a functional continuity. Reading an 1888 trio of antisemitic, imperialist novels by Louis Noir, I propose that empire offered modern antisemitism the solution to a problem vexing Orientalists and antisemites alike: how to denounce capitalism from a position immanent to the system. The result—what I call imperial antisemitism—in turn invites us to examine antisemitism’s contested place among racial capitalism’s global logics. Seeking to understand antisemitism’s twenty-first century resurgence, I make a case for antisemitism’s ongoing pertinence to the capitalist world order.
Dorian Bell is Associate Professor of Literature and Jewish Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His first book, Globalizing Race: Antisemitism and Empire in French and European Culture (Northwestern University Press, 2018), traces intersections between antisemitism and imperialism that shaped the emergence of European racial thought.
This seminar is one in the series, Race, Religion and Difference in the Nineteenth Century, a collaboration between Birkbeck Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, University of London and the Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies at Durham/Newcastle and Northumbria Universities.