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2022 Spring


William Eddleston
For information about registration please contact our admissions.

The course traces the development of racial prejudice and anti-Semitism, from their roots in the classical and mediaeval worlds to the rise of National Socialism in the early 20th century. Particular emphasis will be paid to the manner in which religious, cultural, linguistic and physical/biological forms of exclusion have overlapped and reinforced each other. It is one of the principal contentions of this course that National Socialism's exterminatory anti-Semitism is not merely a product of centuries of anti-Jewish prejudice; rather, racial anti-Semitism must be understood as something which evolved in close symbiosis with racial prejudices directed against Africans - slave and free - and colonial peoples from the early modern period, culminating in the historically-particular form of exterminatory racial anti-Semitism which formed the necessary precondition of the Holocaust.

Here is the course outline:

1. Class 1 - HIS 380/580 - The History of Racism and Anti-Semitism - Introduction to Course

Feb 7

Introductory quiz and discussion on the nature of race, racism & anti-Semitism; distribution of syllabus and explanation of course requirements; assignment of students into A, B, C, D & E reading and presentation groups.

2. Class 2 - Race and Race Prejudice in Classical Antiquity

Feb 14

This seminar is introduced by a presentation by the lecturer – “Xenophobia and Race Prejudice in Classical Antiquity” – which examines the nature of racial prejudice in the ancient Graeco-Roman world. Was there a pronounced prejudice against Africans in the Classical World? Did the Greek world “invent” racism in the modern sense? Did ancient pagan Judeophobia anticipate later “anti-Semitism?” Discussion Seminar 1 – Was There Racism in Classical Antiquity? – looks at the contrasting perspectives of Benjamin Isaac, Eric Gruen and Frank Snowden on the nature of racism in the classical world.

3. Class 3 - Jews and Others in the Christian Middle Ages

Feb 21

This seminar unit examines the rise of the ritual murder accusation and later related “Blood Libel” in Crusading Europe. It asks one of the fundamental methodological questions to be explored in this course: is it anachronistic to talk of “anti-Semitism” in the European middle ages and early modern period? There is a special focus on the theories of Gavin I. Langmuir and his redefinition of the term “anti-Semitism.” In addition to the seminar, there will be a lecturer presentation on the Bible and the use of biblical texts to justify anti-Judaism, anti-black racism and other forms of racial prejudice.

4. Class 4 - Race and Religion in the Early Modern World

Feb 28

Seminar 3 - Race and the Inquisition: Jews, Moors and the Limpieza de Sangre in Spain and the Spanish New World – focuses on the 15th-16th century Spanish ethnic and religious cauldron, out of which one of the first seemingly “modern” doctrines of race emerged. Topics explored include the question of early modern “ethnic cleansing,” and the subsequent export of distinctively Iberian notions of race to the colonial societies of the New World.

5. Class 5 - Slavery, Race and the Bible in the Early Modern World

Mar 7

Most historians of race and racism trace the origins of these doctrines in their modern form to the rise of the Atlantic slave trade in the 16th and 17th centuries. Students will watch and discuss the documentary “The Colour of Money,” the first part of the BBC’s documentary series Racism: A History (2007). The seminar will explore one of the fundamental questions in the study of racism; namely, is “racism” as we understand it (a system of institutionalised discrimination based upon the alleged biological inferiority of a particular group) the precondition or the product of the transatlantic slave systems of the early modern and modern periods?

6. Class 6 - Race, Racism and the Enlightenment

Mar 14

Was the Enlightenment inherently Eurocentric and inherently racist? In the shadow of the Third Reich, critical theorists Max Horkheimer and Theodore Adorno’s Dialectic of the Enlightenment held that the instrumental scientific rationality of the Enlightenment led ultimately to the death camps. Seminar 5 critically examines the famous thesis of the German Critical Theorists Max Horkheimer and Theodore Adorno, whose Dialectic of the Enlightenment held that the instrumental scientific rationality of the Enlightenment led ultimately to the death camps of the Third Reich. The theories of Zygmunt Bauman – who rooted genocide and Nazism as products of industrial modernity – are also scrutinized.

7. Class 7 - Racism, Collective Memory and Film

Mar 21

Few films can claim to have had the cultural impact of D.W. Griffith's 1915 Birth of a Nation. The most popular film of the silent era, it embodied the mythology of the both the “Lost Cause” and “Dunning School” versions of the Civil War and Reconstruction. (Significantly, the most successful film of all time - Gone with the Wind (1939) - is similarly steeped in these mythologies.) The film led directly to the founding of the so-called "Second Ku Klux Klan," which at its peak in the mid-1920s boasted the allegiance of over six million Americans. Students will watch a screening of the second - "Reconstruction" - half of the film. A discussion of the film in light of modern scholarship on the Civil War, Reconstruction and collective memory will follow.

8. Class 8 - Race and Language: Gobineau and his Essai sur l’inégalité des races humaines

Apr 4

The revolt against the universal rationality of the Enlightenment saw the Romantic movement’s celebration of all that was early, primitive and unique. The German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder hailed unique languages as the most fundamental expression of the Volkgeist of particular peoples. By the mid-19th century, linguistically-based concepts like “Aryan” and “Semite” were increasingly being conflated with physiological racial classifications like hair colour and skull shape. Gobineau’s work is a watershed in this shift. Seminar 6 focuses on one of the most important pioneers of European racism, Comte Arthur de Gobineau, and on his influence on other key racist thinkers: the composer Richard Wagner and Henry Hotze, the apologist for the Confederacy and associate of the American School of polygenesis.

9. Class 9 - The Rise of the White Man’s Republic: Race and Slavery in Jacksonian America

Apr 11

Early nineteenth century America – a slave-owning society rapidly expanding into territories occupied by peoples deemed “racially inferior” – was to be the laboratory for ideas which would have a rapid a profound impact on the development of European racism. This seminar explores the connections between slavery, the growing popular belief in the concept of a “White Man’s Democracy,” and the rise of polygenism and biological racism in defence of slavery and “Manifest Destiny.” It builds upon the previous seminar on Gobineau, showing how the Comte’s theory of history was married with the physical racial theories – craniology and polygenesis – of the American School. There will be a lecturer presentation for this seminar, but no student presentation.

10. Class 10 - Race, Empire and Evolution

Apr 25

When Hitler and Himmler articulated plans for the conquest and colonisation of the East, they drew explicit parallels and justifications from American westward expansion and British colonial policy in India. However, the connections between Nazi colonial practices in German South-West Africa in the early 20th century are far more direct. Students will watch and discuss the BBC documentary Racism: A History – Part 2: Fatal Impacts (2007). Seminar 7 will look at the crucial split in British anthropology in the 1860s between the anti-slavery, monogenist Ethnological Society of London – heir to the old Anti-Slavery and Aborigine’s Protection Societies - and the pro-slavery, pro- imperialist and polygenist Anthropological Society of London. This watershed event in the history of racial though is examined in the context of the American Civil War and Britain’s deepening imperial commitment.

11. Class 11 - The Rise and Rise of Racial Anti-Semitism in Europe, 1871-1939

May 2

This class examines two closely-related questions: the rise of a mass-based political anti-Semitic movements in France, Central Europe and Russia from the late 19th to the earlier 20th centuries, and the shift from “anti-Judaism” to racial “anti-Semitism.” The late 19th century Russian pogroms; the rise of political anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria and the Dreyfus Affair in France will all be considered. But the particular focus of the seminar is the construction of the notion of a “Semitic race”: that the Jews constitute a people of an irreducible racial otherness, unassimilable to the nation states of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. From Ernest Renan’s linguistics to the Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s “Aryan Christ,” through to the eclectic anthropometric racial studies of Eugen Fischer and the race mysticism of the Nazi Party’s racial ideologist Alfred Rosenberg, we trace the lineages of the creation of a fictional racial group.

12. Class 12 - Racism, Nordicism and Eugenics

May 9

This seminar examines the intersections between racism, nationalism and eugenics in both the United States and Europe in the period leading up to the First World War – and beyond. We will explore the way in which racist thinkers like Madison Grant and Vacher de Lapouge married the racial theories of Gobineau with eugenics, anti-Semitism and the defense of Jim Crow and immigration restriction.

13. Class 13 - Towards the Final Solution – Nazism and Colonial Violence

May 16

The final lecture demonstrates how the racism of Hitler, Himmler, Rosenberg and their followers represented the coming together of several streams of racialist thinking: anti-Semitism, biological racialism, Social Darwinism, colonial racism and eugenics. The radicalising effects of the violence and social militarisation of World War I and the Russian Revolution – from which the theory of “Judaeo-Bolshevism” and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery emerged – was an essential element in “the Nazi Synthesis.” Seminar 11 explores the components of Nazi racialism in more detail, with a particular focus on Nazi Lebensraum theories and their affinities with colonial racism and genocide. We will examine the debate over the connections between Nazi genocide and the Herero and Nama genocide perpetrated by the Second Reich in the early years of the 20th century – the so-called “Kaiser’s Holocaust.”

14. Class 14 - The Denouement: The Final Solution, 1941-45

May 23

In 1978, the British production team that produced the acclaimed documentary series The World at War returned to their archives to compile a special programme on the Final Solution. The result was arguably the most harrowing and compelling Holocaust documentary of its length ever made. Jeremy Isaacs and his team interviewed many of the same survivors who were later to feature in Claude Lanzmann’s milestone documentary Shoah. Students will watch and discuss the second part of this documentary – The Final Solution – Part 2 (BBC, 1978). Students will also submit their final take home exam papers. The two papers must be uploaded to NEO LMS Turnitin assignment “Final Take Home Exam” by 11.30 am, December 16th. (Master’s students will also submit their Research Paper to the Turnitin assignment of that name by 11.30 am, December 16th.)

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