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 inter-relating 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 anthropological 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. As part of that project, I have undertaken a number of studies into the ways in which European aesthetic practices (such as poetry, painting, and theatre) have constituted themselves through representations of figures of Judaism and Islam. (First fruits of that research were offered in a book I edited with Herbert Kessler: Judaism and Christian Art: Aesthetic Anxieties from the Catacombs to Colonialism, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011). On a larger scale, I traced one strand of these histories across the longue durée in my Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (W.W. Norton, 2013). By following the uses and transformations of Jewish figures across the history of thought (from ancient Egypt through to the mid-twentieth century, and including both Christianity and Islam as well as their secular heirs) that book suggests some of the ways in which our own forms of critical thought have been produced by a history of thinking about “Judaism.” Writing the later chapters of that book encouraged me to confront some modern and contemporary philosophical debates, producing essays on thinkers such as Hans Jonas, Ernst Cassirer, and Alain Badiou.
My current projects continue along these diverse strands of interest. One, something of a sequel to Communities of Violence, is an archivally based study of the transformation of religious communities and identities (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) in medieval Spain, between the mass conversions of 1391 and the establishment of the Inquisition in the late fifteenth century. A second volume grows out of my 2012 Mandel lectures at Brandeis University, on the work done by figures of Judaism in Western political, poetical, and pictorial theologies: that is, in the efforts of Christian politics, poetry, and art to authorize themselves. A third project, in collaboration with Ricardo Nirenberg, explores the attractions and the dangers of yet another strategy to authorize knowledge: namely the attempt, from the pre-Socratics to the present, to found human thought on the principles of identity, non-contradiction, and sufficient reason.
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)
“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, no. 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.