David Nirenberg

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David Nirenberg, an American historian, is Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Professor of Medieval History and Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, as well as the Dean of the Social Sciences Division at the University and the founding Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society. He has a particular interest in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim thought in Medieval Europe, and works in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Center for Jewish Studies, and the College of the University of Chicago.

Major works[edit]

Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition[edit]

Nirenberg's 2013 book Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition is not a history of anti-Semitism, rather, it focuses "on the role of anti-Judaism as a constitutive idea and an explanatory force in Christian and post-Christian thought—though it starts with Egyptian arguments against the Jews and includes a discussion of early Islam, whose writers echo, and apparently learned from, Christian polemics."[1] Pulling on an array of sources from across the centuries, Nirenberg demonstrates the potency of "imaginary Jews" in "works of the imagination, profound treatises, and acts of political radicalism."[2] Described as "an extraordinary scholarly achievement",[3] Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition argues "that a certain view of Judaism lies deep in the structure of Western civilization and has helped its intellectuals and polemicists explain Christian heresies, political tyrannies, medieval plagues, capitalist crises, and revolutionary movements."[4] Christopher Smith of King's College London argues that Anti-Judaism represents, "the culmination of a career volte-face in respects to his methodological approach. His 1996 work Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages rejected a longue durée history of anti-Semitism." Whereas, "in Anti-Judaism, Nirenberg allows for a continuation of trends in the development of a shared concept of anti-Judaism built on and progressed over" a period of three thousand years.[5]

Communities of Violence; Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages[edit]

Nirenberg's "important"[6] 1996 book Communities of violence; Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages, challenged interpretations that set inter-communal medieval violence (specifically, attacks on lepers, Jews, and Muslims) into larger teleological frameworks. It argued that each event must be understood in its own terms, in the context of economic and social tensions available for exploitation in a specific time and place. He argues that primacy should be given to understanding the local meaning of inter-communal violent events, and that violent events can be better understood as one of the mechanisms that in fact contributed to social stability and kept the overall amount of violence low. The book makes these broader arguments by focusing on Aragon in the 1300s.

Nirenberg questions the longue duree approach that sets individual riots, attacks and pogroms into a series that he characterizes as a "march of intolerance" culminating in modern events, most notably the Holocaust.[7] The book has been understood as a challenge to the entire concept of minority history, reinterpreting groups often cast as "other" or "marginal" as integral parts of the societies in which they dwelt.[8]

List of Books[edit]

1. Neighboring Faiths: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in the Middle Ages and Today, University of Chicago Press (October 2014).

2. Judaismus als Politischer Begriff, Historische Geisteswissenschaften Frankfurter Vorträge, Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen (October 2013).

3. Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition, W.W. Norton (2013).

4. Judaism and Christian Art: Aesthetic Anxieties from the Catacombs to Colonialism (with Herbert Kessler), University of Pennsylvania Press (2011).

5. Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages, Princeton University Press (1996). Paperback edition, February, 1998. Spanish translation: Comunidades de Violencia: Persecución de minorías en la edad media, Peninsula Editorial (2001); French translation: Violence et minorités au Moyen Age, Presses Universitaires de France (2001).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Walzer, Michael. "Imaginary Jews". The New York Review Of Books. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  2. ^ Grafton, Anthony. "Imaginary Jews: The strange history of antisemitism in Western culture". New Republic. Retrieved January 12, 2015. 
  3. ^ Walzer, Michael. "Imaginary Jews". The New York Review Of Books. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  4. ^ Walzer, Michael. "Imaginary Jews". The New York Review Of Books. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  5. ^ Review by Christopher Smith, Reviews in History, March 6, 2014
  6. ^ Review by Ann Kuzdale, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 66, No. 1, Spring, 1998.
  7. ^ Review by Mark D. Meyerson, Speculum, Vol. 74, No. 2, Apr., 1999.
  8. ^ Review by Ann Kuzdale, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 66, No. 1, Spring, 1998.