The University of Chicago
Committee on Social Thought
1130 E. 59th Street, Box 35
Chicago, IL 60637
Christians, Jews, and Muslims in medieval Europe and the Mediterranean; Medieval ideas about communication, exchange, and social relations.
Much of my work has focused on the ways in which Jewish, Christian, and Islamic cultures constitute themselves by interrelating with or thinking about each other. My first book, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages, studied 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. In more recent projects I have taken a less social and 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. One product of that approach, focused on art history, was (jointly with Herb Kessler) Judaism and Christian Art: Aesthetic Anxieties from the Catacombs to Colonialism (2011). In Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (2013), I attempted to apply the methodology to a very longue durée, studying the work done by pagan, Christian, Muslim, and secular thinking about Jews and Judaism in the history of ideas. Most recently, in Neighboring Faiths: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism Medieval and Modern, I’ve tried to bring the social into conversation with the hermeneutic, in order to show how, in multireligious societies (my focus is on Spain), lived experiences of interreligious contact interact with conceptual categories and habits of thought, and how this interaction shapes how adherents of all three religions perceive themselves and each other.
My work on these three religious traditions ranges across literary, artistic, historiographic, and philosophical genres. But even more generally, my interest seems to be in the history of how the possibilities and limits of community and communication have been imagined. To that end I’ve engaged in some debates about how the possibility of overcoming those limits has been fantasized (such as my essays on the “Politics of Love and its Enemies” and on “Badiou’s Number”). In order to explore these more general questions I am engaged in two long-term thematic projects: the first, a history of love’s central place in a number of ancient, medieval, and modern idealizations of communication and exchange; and the second, a parallel study of poison as a representation of communication’s dangers.
Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages. Princeton University Press (1996). Paperback edition, February, 1998. Spanish translation: Comunidades de Violencia: Persecución de minorías en la edad media, Peninsula Editorial (2001); French translation: Violence et minorités au Moyen Age, Presses Universitaires de France (2001).
Wie jüdisch war das Spanien des Mittelalters? Die Perspektive der Literatur, Kleine Schriften des Arye Maimon-Instituts, vol. 7 (Trier, 2005).
Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (W.W. Norton, January 2013)
The Body of Christ in the Art of Europe and New Spain, 1150-1800 (with James Clifton and Linda Neagley), Prestel Verlag, Munich (1997).
Judaism and Christian Art: Aesthetic Anxieties from the Catacombs to Colonialism (with Herbert Kessler), University of Pennsylvania Press (2011).
Race and Blood in Spain and Colonial Latin America (with Maria Elena Martinez and Max Hering Torres), (LIT-Verlag, November 2012).
Selected Articles (A full CV and selection of downloadable articles may be found on my web page http://home.uchicago.edu/~nirenberg/)
“Die moderne Vorbildfunktion des mittelalterlichen Spanien,” Münchner Beiträge zur Jüdischen Geschichte und Kultur 5 (2011), 7-29.
“Badiou’s Number: a Critique of Mathematical Ontology,” co-authored with Ricardo Nirenberg, Critical Inquiry 37.4 (2011), 583-614. (Response by Alain Badiou, and reply by us, “Critical Response,” in Critical Inquiry 38 (2012), 362-387.
"From Cairo to Cordoba," The Nation, June 1, 2011.
"When Philosophy Mattered," The New Republic, Feb. 3, 2011, pp. 39-43.
“Shakespeare’s Jewish Questions,” Renaissance Drama (2010), pp. 77-113.
“Double Game: Maimonides in his World,” London Review of Books 32:18 (Sep. 23, 2010), 31-32.
“Anti-Zionist Demography,” Dissent (Spring, 2010), 103-9.
“L’Indécision Souverain: Génocide et Justice en Valencia, 1391,” Mélanges Claude Gauvard (Presses Universitaires de France, 2010).
“Judentum und Islam in der europäischen Dialektik von Glaube und Vernunft: Anmerkungen zur Geschichtstheologie Papst Benedikts XVI.,” in Religionskontroversen im Verfassungsstaat, ed. Hans G. Kippenberg and Astrid Reuter (Verlag Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2010), pp. 181-207.