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If the world remains silent : a political reading of Elie Wiesel as a public intellectual in the United States / by Mark J. Chmiel

Publication | Library Call Number: PQ2683.I32 Z634 1997

As a public intellectual and Nobel Peace Laureate, Elie Wiesel has stressed the importance of Holocaust remembrance and solidarity with those who suffer oppression today. While Wiesel's work has been largely ignored by secular scholars in the social sciences, Jewish and Christian scholars have lauded Wiesel as a prophet or a messenger. Yet, these writers typically read Wiesel's message and practice apart from the social-political context of U.S. domestic and foreign affairs. In this dissertation, I analyze what both religious thinkers and social theorists have not yet attempted: A critical and social-political examination of Wiesel as a public intellectual in the United States. Elie Wiesel has considered it his mission to speak truth to power and to warn today's citizens of the danger of indifference. Contrary to those who see Wiesel's work in heroic terms, my thesis is that Wiesel's practice of speaking truth to power and offering solidarity to victims has been marked by serious ambivalence, tensions, and contradictions. First, I show that while Wiesel has been able to raise critical questions towards U.S. foreign policy when the government refused to intervene during the Holocaust, he has not critically interrogated the contemporary policies of the U.S. government or its allies that result in human rights violations. Second, I argue that Wiesel's overriding commitment to remember the trauma suffered by the European Jews has prevented him from speaking truth to power regarding the injustice committed against the Palestinians by the State of Israel, long supported by the United States. Third, I contend that, by entering into a working relationship with and by accepting honors from the U.S. government, Wiesel's autonomy to speak truth to U.S. power has been significantly diminished. In sum, I demonstrate that Wiesel's practice has not been unequivocal with regard to solidarity with victims because he has been divided between his instinctive affinity for victims (whose suffering recalls his own) and his hermeneutics of generosity toward U.S. and Israeli state power.

Format
Book
Author/Creator
Chmiel, Mark, 1960-
Published
1997
Includes bibliographical references (p. 310-320)
Language
English
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Record last modified: 2018-05-22 11:47:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/bib40133