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Jean-Paul Sartre and "the Jewish question" : the politics of engagement and the image of the "the Jew" in Sartre's thought, 1930-1980 / by Jonathan Judaken.

Publication | Library Call Number: JC261.S372 J833 1997

My dissertation analyzes how the image of 'the Jew' is pivotal in every moment in the development of Sartre's theory of engagement--from his earliest considerations on the role of the intellectual in France in the 1930s to his final interview in 1980. I show that 'the Jew' is consistently caught in a double bind in Sartre's work. On the one hand, the Jew is imagined as the quintessential witness to the human condition because the negativity of 'the Jew' marks the possibility of the self-reflexive turn that enables a questioning of human existence. On the other hand, 'the Jew' is a figure ontologically confined to the margins of French society. Sartre clearly, often vitriolically, opposed antisemitism and advocated a tolerance of Jews and Judaism in France. I argue, however, that many of the antisemitic constructions that Sartre criticizes remain embedded in his representation of judeite (Jewishness or being-Jewish). Sartre's interventions subtly but surely inscribe 'the Jew' as a martyr--ontologically confined to a memory of suffering, to a life of exclusion, to the position of the foreigner and outsider. The analysis of how Sartre imagines 'the Jew' in his texts thus serves as the basis for a discussion of French cultural attitudes on assimilation and Jewish difference--how French identity is defined through the reification, abstraction and allegorization of 'the Jew' and the role anti-antisemitic intellectuals play in perpetuating this process in France. Moreover, it addresses the inherent contradictions in the opposition to racism and antisemitism within a universalist discourse of emancipation.

Judaken, Jonathan, 1968-
Record last modified: 2018-05-29 16:28:00
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