Bracketing antisemitism: the discourse and its semantic distinctions

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter I retrace the historical “othering” of the Jews through a discussion of the semantic changes in antisemitic discourse centered on the analysis of the words “Judeophobia,” “Anti-Judaism,” and “antisemitism.” Each term raises the issue of deciding at what point their application becomes an anachronism with respect to the reality they aim to describe or a legitimate extension from their original usage. The semantic discussion provides the framework for recounting the history of anti-Jewish prejudice through a broad interpretative schema that considers legal status as the primary criterion of Jewish inclusion within society, stressing its importance in the interplay between state policies and social practices of inclusion and exclusion in pagan, and subsequently Christian and eventually secularized society. Throughout the study, I emphasize the need to critically challenge the terminological validity of the existing terms with respect to specific historical contexts and phases of anti-Jewish prejudice. What emerges from this approach is that the phenomenon of anti-Jewish hostility comes into being within well-defined and, ab origine, asymmetric relations—economic, religious, political, legal, social, and cultural—whose dynamic is shaped by and articulated through specific tropes. I address, by way of conclusion, the semantic shifts in understandings of antisemitism in the post-1945 period, claiming that the Holocaust and the foundation of the State of Israel transformed the history of the Jews as the history of a minority. This transformed in an irreversible way the discourse on antisemitism, and in doing so provided a new vocabulary for rationalizing anti-Jewish prejudice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAntisemitism, Islamophobia and the Politics of Definition
PublisherSpringer International Publishing; Imprint: Springer
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9783031162657
StatePublished - 2023

RAMBI Publications

  • Rambi Publications
  • Antisemitism -- Terminology -- History
  • Antisemitism -- History -- 1945-
  • Antisemitism -- History


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