Ulrike Brunotte gives lecture at Meertens Institute (KNAW)

Ulrike Brunotte presented her new research project at the KNAW-Meertens Institute seminar ‘Religion, Media, Body, Heritage’ on Thursday 23 November. She gave a lecture on ‘The Beautiful Jewess as Frontier Figure in Europe’s Internal Colonialism. Some Remarks on the Intertwinement of Orientalism and Anti-Semitism’. After the meeting, she was invited to become a member of the research group.


The ‘Beautiful Jewess’ as Frontier Figure in European Internal Colonialism – Some Remarks on the Intertwinement of Orientalism and Antisemitism, by Ulrike Brunotte

According to Said, Germany as a country without many colonies didn’t play an important role in the scholarly and political enactment of orientalism. Referring back to the prestigious German Orientalist scholarship of the nineteenth century, but also to processes of internal orientalisation as central tools of Germany’s minority politics, this paper will explore Western discourses on the “Orient” as a prominent way to create Internal Others. Moving beyond Said’s dictum that orientalism, is “a strange, secret sharer of Western anti-Semitism” (1979, 27), I investigate into the plural history of topical discourses, hybrid figures and recurrent narratives of theorizing and symbolizing intra-European religious difference and diversity. A starting thesis is “that historical orientalism has been based on the Christian West’s attempts to understand and manage its relationship with both of its monotheistic Others – Muslims and Jews” (Kalmar, 2005). Historically, Jews have been seen in the Western world often concurrently as occidental and oriental. I’ll focus on the liminal figure of the “Beautiful Jewess”, analysed as the gendered and affective embodiment of the “Jewish Question”. Starting from the presupposition of her situatedness on a frontier zone between religions and cultures, the paper compares her depiction in literary, visual and scholarly media. Western discourses on the “Orient” will be presented as a multilayered and ambivalent ensemble of relational references. The very nature of Germany’s exceptionalism had a decisive impact on the perception of a ‘racial’ and religious Other within the contact zone of an internal colonial encounter. To connect internal and external orientalism offers new perspectives on the study of colonialism, gender, religion and orientalism, past and present. The paper will also ask for resilient colonial and oriental formats in today’s (neo-)orientalism.

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