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Jews and the Ends of Theory$
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Shai Ginsburg, Martin Land, and Jonathan Boyarin

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780823282005

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823282005.001.0001

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The Jewish Animot: Of Jews as Animals

The Jewish Animot: Of Jews as Animals

Chapter:
(p.142) Chapter 6 The Jewish Animot: Of Jews as Animals
Source:
Jews and the Ends of Theory
Author(s):

Jay Geller

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823282005.003.0007

This chapter addresses the famous joke on “the elephant and the Jewish question,” whose prominence is attested by its many iterations not only in collections of Jewish jokes but also in works of philosophy and theory. Drawing together two seemingly unrelated terms such as Jews and elephants and pointing at their close proximity, jokes do not merely comment on the preposterous character of the “rumor about the Jews” that there is an inherent relationship between Jews and nonhuman animals. The joke also points to what escapes theory and calls out its limitations, for theory takes the Jew as well as the animal as categories, singular as they might be, that can be comprehended only vis-à-vis universals. The chapter then looks at how Jewish authors have called into question the human-nonhuman animal divide in their struggle to think through European modernity.

Keywords:   Jewish question, Jewish jokes, Jews, elephants, nonhuman animals, theory, Jewish authors, European modernity

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