Understanding history of anti-semitism can help us today

History can help make us aware of patterns in our thinking about the world, of prejudices and habits of thought. In a lecture on Thursday, April 20, titled “How Can History Help us? The Example of Anti-Semitism,” David Nirenberg, the director and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, NJ, draws upon the long history of anti-semitism in order to ask how that history can help us understand debates about anti-semitism today. The lecture is at 5 p.m. in Malott Hall, Rm. 228 and will be live-streamed over Zoom. This lecture is free and open to the public.

Nirenberg is a historian of Christians, Jews and Muslims in medieval Europe and the Mediterranean. His work explores the history of ideas, particularly medieval ideas about communication, exchange and social relations, as well as ideas of race and racism.

Prior to his appointment at IAS, Nirenberg was the Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Distinguished Service Professor of Social Thought, History, Divinity, and Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago, where he also served as the founding director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society (2011–14), Dean of the Social Sciences (2014–17), Executive Vice Provost (2017–18), and Dean of the Divinity School (2018–22).

His books include "Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages" (1996), "Judaism and Christian Art: Aesthetic Anxieties from the Catacombs to Colonialism" (2011), "Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition" (2013), and "Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies: Judaism in Christian Painting, Poetry, and Politics" (2015). His most recent book, "Uncountable: A Philosophical History of Number and Humanity from Antiquity to the Present" (2021), was written in collaboration with Ricardo Nirenberg. He is currently writing a history of race and religion, from the neolithic to the present.

This lecture is sponsored by the Cornell University Program of Jewish StudiesDepartment of Near Eastern Studies, and Cornell Hillel with support of the Pearl and Otto Delikat Holocaust Memorial Fund.

Ayla Hodges is an events coordinator in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Photo credit: Andrea Kane/Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ.

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David Nirenberg
Andrea Kane/Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ David Nirenberg