Genealogies of Survival: Christianity, Judaism, Sovereignty
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Stern, Adam Y.
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AbstractThis dissertation attends to survival as a notion of critical historical urgency. It begins with the observation that survival is a foundational but largely unexamined theme within the field of Jewish Studies, arguing that the absence of sustained reflection on this question confirms the politics of a scholarly tradition that has frequently made “Jewish survival” its defining project. Over the course of five chapters, it explores this problem by turning to canonical figures in modern Jewish thought: Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Franz Rosenzweig, and Sigmund Freud. In each case, its goal is to demonstrate that these writers—so often taken to be exemplary Jewish voices of the discourse on Jewish survival—actually inscribe the notion of survival within the theological-political and biopolitical history of Latin Christianity. Specifically, this study claims that modern, secular representations of survival perpetuate and expand upon older discussions concerning Christ’s mystical body, his crucifixion and resurrection, as well as his subjectivity and sovereignty. At the same time, it continually returns to the issue of Jewish survival in order to show how it translates a parallel legacy of Christian interest in the mystical body of Israel.
By making survival a matter of Jewish-Christian difference (or the Judeo-Christian), this dissertation also intervenes directly in contemporary debates about secularism, secularization, and the history of the comparative term “religion.” Following a scholarly tradition that has emerged from Jacques Derrida’s work on globalatinization, it pays particular attention to the role of Latin Christianity in the globalization of these terms and divisions. Survival, this dissertation suggests, can act as a cipher for a set of transformations that do not offer an exit from Christianity so much as they extend and occlude its continuing dominance. In addition, the linguistic emphasis of the phrase globalatinization announces the final element of this inquiry into survival, which looks to the contingencies of translation as a way of particularizing a concept often taken to be a universal. This means that the genealogy of survival can only proceed as an investigation into the differences produced and disseminated through a history of translation, as it has made its way from Rome (Latin) to Europe (English, French, German) and to the United States (English). Against this background, this study narrates a broader story about how the language of survival, the figure of the survivor, and the image of Jewish survival have come to dominate the post-war period in Europe, America, and beyond.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:37944960
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