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Antisemitism, Holocaust, Colonialism, Gender: Connecting the Conversation


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor and tutor: Professor David Feldman
  • Assessment: coursework of 1000 words (20%) and a 4000-word essay (80%)

Module description

How do antisemitism, the Holocaust, colonialism and gender connect? In this module we take these four areas of study as ways to examine prejudice, discrimination, race and hate in their historical and contemporary manifestations. These subjects have often been discussed in distinct silos, with antisemitism and the Holocaust studied separately from forms of racism rooted in colonial legacies.

In this module we reframe discussions that at present take place in parallel, and sometimes in an antagonistic manner. We will set out different approaches to this reframing, focusing on the work of Hannah Arendt, memory studies, hate studies and gender, before moving on to look at the historical relationship between antisemitism and colonialism and between the Holocaust, genocide and the Nakba. We conclude with a consideration of gender as the object of hate and its connection with illiberal politics in contemporary Europe.

This module is supported by the Open Society University Network (OSUN) and is a collaboration between Birkbeck, Central European University, Bard College, University of Witwatersrand and SOAS. Weekly classes will be in two parts: first, collaboratively online with students and teachers from the other partner universities; and second, in dedicated seminars for Birkbeck students only.

Indicative syllabus

  • The Holocaust and multidirectional memory
  • Gendering research of genocide, the Holocaust: methods and perspectives
  • Understanding the human capacity for hatred
  • Colonialism and the Jews
  • Antisemitism and other forms of othering
  • Antisemitism, Zionism, anti-Zionism
  • Legacies of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism: thinking the Holocaust and coloniality
  • The Holocaust and the Nakba
  • Addressing hatred, racism and genocide: the role of Holocaust and genocide museums
  • How did gender become the object of hate? Explanations and strategies

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will understand:

  • how antisemitism functions and changes, and how it fits within a family of prejudices and racialisations
  • how racism and genocide have been enacted in colonial contexts
  • the ways in which the Holocaust and genocides have been narrated and studied in recent decades
  • how feminist critiques contribute to our understanding of racialisation, colonialism, genocide studies and memory studies
  • how antisemitism and colonialism, as well as memories of the Holocaust and other genocides, interact in historical and contemporary contexts.