The End of the Semites

Renton, James (2017) The End of the Semites. In: Renton, James and Gidley, Ben (eds). Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story? Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp. 99-140. ISBN 978-3-319-42600-6 DOI

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There is a huge literature on the Western European concept of the Semites, which posited that Jews and Arabs belonged to a single race. This is the first essay to argue that this racial idea was at base theological, and for this reason possessed an inner fragility, in which the Jew and the Arab were always conceived differently. The theological essence of the Semitic idea was the reason why ultimately this notion, which was of tremendous influence in Europe and Western Asia, fell from grace so quickly from the 1930s. In short, the argument of the essay provides an entirely new history of the Semite located in political theology, which changes the chronology and dynamics of its rise and fall. Finally, the article integrates the intellectual history of Western Europe with that of European empire in Western Asia, which Edward Said attempted, but without the use of imperial archives. The essay also offers a new explanation of why antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe splintered in the 20th century. More broadly, it is intended as a contribution to the wave of scholarship in recent years that argues for the Christianity of European modernity.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Semite; racism; Orientalism; empire; antisemitism; Islamophobia
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
Divisions: History
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2017 10:25

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