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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Events in Modern Languages & Cultures

Transnationalism Research Group seminar: Dr Ilan Baron (School of Government and International Affairs): ‘Obligation in Exile: The Jewish Diaspora, Israel and Critique’

25th November 2015, 17:00, TBC

Dr. Ilan Baron (School of Government and International Affairs): ‘Obligation in Exile: The Jewish Diaspora, Israel and Critique’ 

Abstract: The Jewish Diaspora is regularly assumed to have an obligation to support Israel. Jews and non-Jews regularly adopt such an assumption. However, what exactly is meant by “support” and what type of obligation this is are both unclear. In this presentation, Dr Baron will argue that there exists a particular category of political obligation that pertains to Diaspora or transnational relations and which he terms “transnational political obligation”. This theory of obligation will be explored in regard to the Jewish Diaspora’s relationship with Israel (focusing on British, American and Canadian Jews). By looking at the relationship between Diaspora Jewry and Israel through a lens of transnational political obligation, a few distinct features present themselves for how this relationship functions. Central among these is the role of identity and how the relationship with Israel involves a reaction to or engagement with the “Israelization” of Jewish Diaspora identity. Thus, debates about Israel within Jewish communities can be understood to be less about Israel and more about a particular claim to identity. The role of critique thus performs a very specific function in regard to Diaspora/Israel relations, as critique about Israel also functions as a critique about what it means to be Jewish in the age of Israel. While the theory of transnational political obligation is not the only way to highlight the roles of identity politics and critique in Diaspora/Israel relations, it does provide a non-ideological intellectual tool through which to explore the controversies surrounding Jews and Israel, and it also opens up a different way to think about the normative characteristics in this relationship.

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