They are outcomes of contingent processes across society and through time. If identities are so socially constituted, the question remains of who, or what, generates and shapes them. The extreme contingency of identity-formation and the fundamentally contradictory ways in which identity is understood, both in society and within the academic literature, has led others to reject the term altogether and focus on the process and its actors instead.
Instead, they propose to separate out the different elements contained within the concept of identity, and to talk about the processes of identification. This centrality of the state in the structuring of the categories of identification is also a key aspect of the settler-colonial literature.
Indeed, the question of identification — and racialisation more specifically — of the indigenous and enslaved populations by the settler-colonial state is a central aspect of this growing body of work. Furthermore, much like Grossberg above, scholars of settler-colonialism locate the origins of racialisation in the emergence of European modernity and the nation-state. For example, Paula Chakravarty and Denise Ferreira da Silva have noted that racialisation was central to European colonialism because "[i]n the post-Enlightenment era, once universality and historicity became ethical descriptors of the properly human, then the task of justifying how rights such as life security and freedom had not been ensured for all human beings required that human difference … become irresolvable.
Racial identities are constructed in and through the very process of their enactment … [R]ace is colonialism speaking, in idioms whose diversity reflects the variety of unequal relationships into which Europeans have co-opted conquered populations.
Processes of identification, including racialisation, operate within categories structured by the state. By mobilising these categories the state is able to exercise control, distribute rights, and facilitate exploitation, expropriation and exclusion. It is in this tension between the attempted imposition by the state of those categories and the response — of rejection or acquiescence — by the identified, that identities emerge.
The analytical task then is to locate the processes of identification, its agents, and the ways in which the identified integrate, subvert, or reject the categories that they are being subjected to. It is to these tasks, in the case of Jewish communities in the West, that this paper now turns. The emergence of modern antisemitism — as opposed to pre-capitalist Christian judeophobia — can be traced back, much like the processes of racialisation discussed above, to the emergence of the nation-state. More than that, it categorised the Jew as the enemy of the nation.
It also captured the anxieties of European populations confronted with the rise of capitalism, rapid urbanisation, and the transformation of their livelihood through processes of primitive accumulation that separated them from the land. Wolfe places this contradictory process in the continuity of colonial classifications of Black populations in the United States:. In both cases, uniformity would come to be constructed genetically, as an ineradicable hereditary mystique, common to every member of the persecuted community; a collective though not always visible mark of Cain. The emergence of the nation-state, which placed the Jew firmly outside of its limits, was accompanied by the application of colonial processes of racialisation to explain this exclusion.
The modern state then promised emancipation through assimilation within the nation, while simultaneously barring access to the national body for Jewish communities through their racialisation. In the face of the emergence of these structures of identification from above, different political responses developed from within the Jewish communities of Western and Eastern Europe. On the one hand, a cultural conflict emerged between the Haskalah the Jewish Enlightenment , which argued for the full assimilation of Jews within the nation-state, and the orthodoxy that remained faithful to its cultural and religious traditions.
On the other hand, political strife developed between the revolutionary traditions associated with Bolshevik, Bundist, Anarchist or reformist currents, which saw in the Jewish exclusion from the nation-state an internationalist potential for its very destruction, and the emerging Zionist movement. The variety of responses to state-led structures of identification applied to Jewish communities is highly relevant to contemporary debates surrounding Jewishness.
Indeed, Jewish identity is increasingly portrayed as monolithic, static and a-temporal within the Jewish community.
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Zionism is so totally identified with how the Jew thinks of himself, and is so associated with the right of the Jewish people to have their own country and to have self-determination within that country, that if you attack Zionism, you attack the very fundamentals of how the Jews believe in themselves. Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, propounds the same argument, put this time in religious terms:.
Zionism has been an integral part of Judaism from the dawn of our faith. Open any prayer book and you will find Israel jumping out at you.
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It is the centre of what we are. As a result — further to a political development in the latter part of the 19th century through which Zionism gained an added dimension, spelling out the right of the Jewish people to live within secure borders with self-determination in their own country, which they had been absent from for 2, years — that is what Zionism is. If you are an anti-Zionist, you are anti everything I have just mentioned.
This approach to Jewish identity, and therefore to antisemitism and the place of Jews within European society, stands in stark contrast to the discussion above about the origins of antisemitism in the European nation-state, and the multitude of different, and often opposed, responses to it from within the Jewish population. Indeed, if this reading of Jewishness and antisemitism is to be taken at face value, the revolutionary, assimilationist, and orthodox religious traditions within European Judaism, all of which rejected the colonial project of Zionist nation-building for different reasons , should be considered within the realm of antisemitic thought and action.
It appears that the approach to the process of identification carries important political significance. He identifies a tension between a revolutionary, universalist, and dialectical reading of Judaism and a counter-revolutionary, ethno-centrist, and static one. To this he contrasts a dialectical reading of the Letter, associated with the sages of the Talmud and St Paul, which leads it to always re-invent and regenerate itself through contact with its surroundings.
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Similarly, Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin straddles the religious and the political to challenge the dominant portrayal of Jewish identity. Raz-Krakotzkin argues that before the advent of modern Zionism, exile was an existential claim in Jewish theology that could not be solved physically.
However, statistical data collected both in the US and the UK points to the fact that Mirvis and Davies are not alone in positing the centrality of the state of Israel to the formation of Jewish identity. This raises a series of questions about Jewish communities in the West: what are the processes of identification, from above and below, that have taken place, which can help explain the emergence of what appears to be the increasingly monolithic understanding of Jewishness? Does the space for conflicting identities still exist or has it truly been narrowed down to an increasingly single one?
And what are the political ramifications of these processes for anti-racist political action today? It is to these questions that the paper now turns, by discussing the development of Jewish identification by Western states and their responses throughout the last century. The classical Marxist tradition was the first to develop a materialist framework to analyse what it has called the Jewish question: the reasons behind the survival of Judaism for thousands of years despite its existence as a minority faith in starkly different societies, and the rise of modern antisemitism in the nineteenth century.
At the same time, antisemitism was understood as an a-historical and universal reality, present at all times, and located within competing religious frameworks see above. In this view, Jews were an essentialised people, always foreign to, and rejected by, the host society, who survived by clinging to their faith or nationhood in the expectation of — secular or miraculous — liberation.
An approach, rooted in Christian Judeophobic prejudice, which, as discussed above, remains present to this day.
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In stark contrast to this approach, Marx put forward a framework of analysis that understood the Jewish people — like other peoples — as continuously made and re-made by history and the prevailing economic and political structures within which they operate. Through the economic and political roles they played in these societies, based on mercantile activity and money-lending, Jews were preserved as an entity separate from the rest of society. Echoing Marx, Leon argued that.
It is not the loyalty of the Jews to their faith which explains their preservation as a distinct social group; on the contrary it is their preservation as a distinct social group which explains their attachment to their faith. He developed the idea that for the majority of their history, Jewish people constituted a people-class, which reproduced itself through their specific economic roles within the different societies they inhabited.
Jews were therefore not a foreign entity within these societies, but an integral part of their socio-economic organisation. Mercantile and financial activity moved from the periphery to the centre of the economy. The economic base for the historic survival of Judaism was disappearing and Jews were being assimilated in Western Europe.
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In Eastern Europe however, where the decay of feudalism and the rise of capitalism were held in a lasting balance, Jews were trapped between semi-proletarianisation and emigration. As they emigrated to the West, they brought with them a Jewish reality, which had, Leon argued, by and large disappeared in those countries. The new bourgeois order rejected them. These approaches, by Marx and Leon, as well as by others in the classical Marxist tradition, from Kautsky to Trotsky, have been criticised more recently for their over-emphasis of the economic unity of Jewish communities and the economic nature of the Jewish question.
What remains from their contribution, however, is their emphasis on the material basis that generated a Jewish identity as opposed to a set, pre-existing, and naturalised one. Classical Marxism therefore also assumed that the elimination of the economic specificity and ghettoisation of Jewish communities would lead both to full assimilation into the surrounding population and the disappearance of antisemitism. Traverso wrote:. Leon remained the prisoner of a vision of assimilation inherited from the Enlightenment, which did not interpret the entry of the Jews into the modern world as a metamorphosis of Judaism, but quite simply as the annulation of Jewish otherness.
Indeed, the economism of the classical Marxists blinded them to the differing political realities of Jewish populations in Europe. In the West, where the Enlightenment and the French Revolution had promised emancipation and equal rights as citizens to the Jews, the situation was reversed. Jewish communities tended to try to assimilate. They spoke the national language, and participated in the intellectual, cultural and official institutions of the nation. In fact, quite the contrary was true and the emerging state played a key role in this process see above. Indeed, it was Tsarist antisemitic decrees that concentrated Jews in the Pale.
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This concentration made the development of a national feeling, based on a shared language, culture and geographical area possible. Finally, the barriers to Jewish land-ownership, enforced by the state, concentrated Jews disproportionately in towns and cities, locating them at the heart of the newly-emerging capitalist order. The classical Marxist tradition then made an important contribution by highlighting the material processes of Jewish identification, and modern antisemitism.
These adjustments are crucial to understanding the formation of modern Jewish identification and the resurgence of antisemitism , as discussed below. The classical Marxist debates on the Jewish question took place before the two key events that shaped Western Jewish life decisively in the second half of the twentieth century: the Nazi genocide and the creation of the State of Israel. Both these events ushered in monumental changes in the make-up, location, and politics of Jewish communities across the world. In the space of little more than a decade: 6 million Jews were exterminated in the gas chambers; the Israeli state was founded after the expulsion of over , Palestinians; the majority of Holocaust survivors moved to Israel; in the s, Jews from across the Middle East and North Africa relocated to Israel, through migration and expulsion.
But the two men fought off their efforts, pretending to be speechless, although tests showed they could hear. To pacify them, the doctor injected them with anesthetics and, as they were sleeping, Timosian changed their cloths. He discovered that one of them had around his neck an identification tag of the type used by British troops, while the other had tattoos with Indian script on his right arm along with the familiar sword of the Gurkha.
The next day when Timosian showed up for work, he was told that a British officer, his sergeant and two Indian Gurkha soldiers had come to the hospital early that morning.
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