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David Nirenberg, Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Professor on the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought and in the Department of History, focuses his scholarship on the ways in which Jewish, Christian, and Islamic cultures constitute themselves by inter-relating with or thinking about each other. Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages (1996) studies social interaction between the three groups within the context of Spain and France, in order to understand the role of violence in shaping the possibilities for coexistence. His more recent work takes a more hermeneutical approach, exploring the work that “Judaism,” “Christianity,” and “Islam” do as figures in each other’s thought about the nature of language and the world. In two book projects he is pursuing opposing versions of this approach. One, focused on the transformation of religious identities in Spain between the mass conversions of 1391 and the establishment of the Inquisition, emphasizes the dynamic, dialogic, and contextual interaction of these categories. The second, on the functions of Jews and Judaism as figures of thought, from ancient Egypt to the present, represents an attempt to recover the possibility of a long history of ideas about Jews and Judaism, an approach that Hannah Arendt famously dismissed as “Eternal Anti-Semitism.”


Past Courses

SCTH 50700. Racial Theories of Religious Differences. Spring 2008

SOCS 28851. Jerusalem in Middle Eastern Civilizations. Spring 2009

ARTH 46309. Secularization and Resacralization. Taught with Ralph Ubl. Autumn 2009

THEO 45401. A Scandal for Gentiles and Jews. Taught with Willemien Otten. Autumn 2009