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Moshe Sluhovsky: “America, the Jew”
May 1, 2014 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
America, the Jew is the title of my next research project. I have been fascinated by the association, maintained by many Europeans, of both the political left and the political right, of the United States with Jews and Judaism. This connection, like a chameleon, constantly changes its shape and colors. At time it is the Jews who control America, corrupt it, and use it for their needs, and at other it is America that is, in fact, nothing but an avatar of global Judaism. Tracing the different configurations of the metonymic associations, images, metaphors, rumors, and assumptions is following the convoluted histories of both European Anti-Semitism and European anti- (and Philo-) Americanism. And while there are excellent histories of each of these two phenomena separately, there has been no systematic attempt to examine what I call the Double Helix of the merging of the two cultural, emotive, cognitive, and ideological constructs.
I have borrowed the title America, the Jew from the title of a 1942 French book, L’Amérique Juive by extreme-right-wing ideologue Pierre-Antoine Costeau. The war years witnessed an unprecedented increase in the number of publications and other media that elaborated on the theme. But the history of the association of Jews, America, and a whole web of negative traits and attributes has encompassed a wide spectrum of European public opinion, from the Communist left to the radical Fascist right and from traditional Catholics to liberal revolutionaries. My work will analyze the histories of this double helix in France, Germany, and Italy between 1840 and 1950. In France, the connection between Jews and American was self-evident due to the affinity between Jews and Protestants and to the loyalty of American Jews to Germany. In Germany, on the other hand, America was Jewish because of its Jewish mode of capitalist production, which was exploitative, as opposed to Arian mode of capitalist production, which was benevolent, and because Jews and Americans both lack Kultur and only have superficial Zivilisation. In Italy Jews are American and America is Jewish because Jewish Free Masons established America and had been using it ever since to destroy Catholicism, hierarchy, order, and family values. In all three countries the Jewish-American nexus was demonstrated not only in the economic and religious spheres but also in the bedroom. Jews and Americans are oversexed; the men are both hyper-masculine and effeminate while the women are libidinous seducers and yet frigid. And if you find it a bit inconsistent and contradictory, welcome to the wonderful world of Anti-Semitic and anti-American fantasies.
In my talk I will only address the French case. But in order to demonstrate the longevity and the fluidity of this set of idées fixes, I will deal mostly with the periods before and after the Vichy regime, highlighting the contribution of leftwing ideologues, from Marx to Louis Aragon, to the construction of America, the Jew.
Moshe Sluhovksy is the Vigevani Chair of European Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem whose research focuses on religious history in general and Catholicism in particular. He has written two books that were published in English: Believe not Every Spirit: Possession, Mysticism, and Discernment in Early Modern Catholicism (2007) and Patroness of Paris: Rituals of Devotion in Late Medieval and Early Modern France (1998). He has also held positions at Brown University, UCLA, and the California Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1992. He will be with the Graduate Center for the full academic year.