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Difference of a Different Kind

Jewish Constructions of Race During the Long Eighteenth Century

By Iris Idelson-Shein

Publication Year: 2014

European Jews, argues Iris Idelson-Shein, occupied a particular place in the development of modern racial discourse during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Simultaneously inhabitants and outsiders in Europe, considered both foreign and familiar, Jews adopted a complex perspective on otherness and race. Often themselves the objects of anthropological scrutiny, they internalized, adapted, and revised the emerging discourse of racial difference to meet their own ends.

Difference of a Different Kind explores Jewish perceptions and representations of otherness during the formative period in the history of racial thought. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including philosophical and scientific works, halakhic literature, and folktales, Idelson-Shein unfolds the myriad ways in which eighteenth-century Jews imagined the "exotic Other" and how the evolving discourse of racial difference played into the construction of their own identities. Difference of a Different Kind offers an invaluable view into the ways new religious, cultural, and racial identities were imagined and formed at the outset of modernity.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

Note on Translations and Transliteration

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. 1-12

There is an amusing scene in V. S. Naipaul’s The Mimic Men, in which Ralph Singh, a Caribbean immigrant in London, describes his impression of his English landlord, Mr. Shylock: “For Mr. Shylock . . . I had nothing but admiration. I was not used to the social modes of London or to the physiognomy and complexions of the North, and I thought Mr. Shylock looked distinguished. . . . He had the habit of stroking the lobe of his ear and inclining his head to listen...

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1. An East Indian Encounter: Rape and Infanticide in the Memoirs of Glikl Bas Leib

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pp. 13-54

The past few decades have seen a growing scholarly awareness to the fact that notions of gender and race are closely intertwined in early modern discussions of difference. Scholars such as Susanne Zantop, Margarita Zamora, and Louis Montrose have called our attention to the ways in which early modern colonial discourse often employed eroticism and gender talk in order to narrate, justify, and at times criticize the conquest, colonization, and subjection of colonial peoples...

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2. “And Let Him Speak”: Noble and Ignoble Savages in Yehudah Horowitz’s Amudey beyt Yehudah

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pp. 55-107

In the popular imagination of medieval Europe, Africans, Americans and other “exotic peoples” were perceived as savage and voracious beings, creatures that had been cursed by God. Hairy, four-footed, and mute, they occupied a mysterious limbo between the bestial, the demonic, and the human. Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, there was some attempt by more “professional” ethnographers to change this imagery and promote a less mythological view of...

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3. Whitewashing Jewish Darkness: Baruch Lindau and the “Species” of Man

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pp. 108-150

Over the course of the eighteenth century, difference underwent a kind of demystification. Wild men became savages and lost their hair, satyrs became apes, and reports of dog-headed nations were replaced by dialogues concerning natural religion amongst the cannibals. Of course, mythological or ambiguous creatures such as Patagonian giants, Amazon tribes, and pygmy nations would continue to appear in the writings...

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4. Fantasies of Acculturation: Campe’s Savages in the Service of the Haskalah

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pp. 151-178

In his definitive discussion of the Enlightenment, Peter Gay characterizes the shift of consciousness that took place during the eighteenth century in the following terms: “Whatever the Christians thought of man . . . the point of Christian anthropology was that man is a son, dependent on God. Whatever the philosophes thought of man . . . the point of the Enlightenment’s anthropology was that man is an adult, dependent on himself.”1 But not all men were considered adults in...

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Epilogue. A Terrible Tale: Some Final Thoughts on Jews and Race

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pp. 179-184

Chameleons are curious creatures. Their ability for camouflage allows them to blend in with their environment, thus both protecting them from predators and allowing them to ambush their own prey undetected. Camouflage is at once a protective and an offensive strategy. It is not a means of waiving difference, but rather of concealing it. The chameleon may resemble its habitat, but it will never become identical with it. It is doubtful that De Pinto would have conceded to such...


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pp. 185-228


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pp. 229-258


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pp. 259-264


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pp. 265-267

E-ISBN-13: 9780812209709
E-ISBN-10: 0812209702
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812246094

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 12 illus.
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 878130528
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Difference of a Different Kind

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Difference (Psychology) -- History -- 18th century.
  • Difference (Psychology) -- History -- 17th century.
  • Difference (Philosophy) -- History -- 18th century.
  • Difference (Philosophy) -- History -- 17th century.
  • Race awareness -- Europe -- History -- 18th century.
  • Race awareness -- Europe -- History -- 17th century.
  • Jews, European -- Race identity -- History -- 18th century.
  • Jews, European -- Race identity -- History -- 17th century.
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