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Bestiarium JudaicumUnnatural Histories of the Jews$
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Jay Geller

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780823275595

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823275595.001.0001

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A Field Guide to the Bestiarium Judaicum

(p.1) Introduction
Bestiarium Judaicum

Jay Geller

Fordham University Press

This chapter introduces the conundrum the monograph seeks to work through—Jewish-identified authors drawing upon the Bestiarium Judaicum, with which Jews have been historically associated, identified, and denigrated by non-Jews—and maps the historical and theoretical contexts for both these puzzling deployments and the efforts at making sense of them. It situates the socio-political Jewish Question in Germanophone lands, from roughly 1750 to the Shoah, within the unresolved crisis over whether or not Jewish-identified individuals should or could be integrated into the dominant society. It points out how the need to render purported Jewish difference visible drew upon natural history—the observation, description, categorization, and exhibition of the other-than-human—as mediated by the Bestiarium Judaicum. It provides an overview of contemporary theoretical and historical engagements with the Question of the Animal and with the representation of human (animals) as (nonhuman) animals. It then turns to how the scholarly literature has inadequately examined the associations of Jews and Animals, the Jew-Animal, and instead proposes to turn critical attention to the Jew-as-Animal—how Jewish-identified writers appropriated and reworked these Jew-Animals and gave voice to the Jewish animot. It briefly discusses several of the strategies that are elaborated in subsequent chapters.

Keywords:   antisemitism response, Jacque Derrida, Great Divide, Donna Haraways, identification, Jewish question, Jews and Animals, killable, natural history, Question of the Animal

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