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Difference of a Different Kind
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Difference of a Different Kind
Jewish Constructions of Race During the Long Eighteenth Century

Iris Idelson-Shein

280 pages | 6 x 9 | 12 illus.
Cloth 2014 | ISBN 9780812246094 | $59.95s | Outside the Americas £48.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Jewish Culture and Contexts
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"A welcome addition. . . . This book focuses on the Jewish attitude toward race as it evolved in the so-called long eighteenth century, mostly during the Jewish Enlightenment of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries."—American Historical Review

"Iris Idelson-Shein gives us a window into a far richer and much more dynamic interplay between the Jewish and the non-Jewish world than what one finds in most scholarship on the Haskalah. She contextualizes her readings with exemplary rigor, breadth, and elegance. Idelson-Shein's prose truly sparkles, and each of the chapters is a sheer pleasure to read, full of narrative drive, stylistic sophistication, and conceptual subtlety. Difference of a Different Kind is a powerful book that delivers an original argument in a lucid and elegant manner."—Jonathan Hess, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"A substantial and well-researched study of the complexities of racial thinking in the European Jewish Enlightenment. Iris Idelson-Shein covers an extraordinary range of topics: rape, infanticide, the savage, hirsute peoples, miscegenation, children's books, issues of translation, and the formation of scientific racism."—Felicity Nussbaum, University of California, Los Angeles

European Jews, argues Iris Idelson-Shein, occupied a particular place in the development of modern racial discourse during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Simultaneously inhabitants and outsiders in Europe, considered both foreign and familiar, Jews adopted a complex perspective on otherness and race. Often themselves the objects of anthropological scrutiny, they internalized, adapted, and revised the emerging discourse of racial difference to meet their own ends.

Difference of a Different Kind explores Jewish perceptions and representations of otherness during the formative period in the history of racial thought. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including philosophical and scientific works, halakhic literature, and folktales, Idelson-Shein unfolds the myriad ways in which eighteenth-century Jews imagined the "exotic Other" and how the evolving discourse of racial difference played into the construction of their own identities. Difference of a Different Kind offers an invaluable view into the ways new religious, cultural, and racial identities were imagined and formed at the outset of modernity.

Iris Idelson-Shein is Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow at the Martin Buber Professur für Jüdische Religionsphilosophie, Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main.

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