Jews and Other “Others”
Both Jews and the “savages” of the Americas were popular subjects for depiction. One might ask whether the Jews, who provided the subject matter for so many thought experiments—about citizenship, human perfectibility, the possibility of pluralism—were equally necessary to theorizing. The Jews were more likely to represent civilization and all its attendant ills—capitalism, luxury, degeneration—than they were to signify savagery or wildness. The representation of Native Americans as descendants of Jews served the purpose, no doubt comforting for visitors to the New World and armchair tourists alike, of familiarization. In addition, it is instructive to compare French representations of Jews with those of women in the age of enlightenment and revolution. For much modern scholarship, women have been the paradigmatic “other,” and many of the questions about why others are posited, and how such positing forms identities and power relations and history, comes from women's studies and gender studies.
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