Conference: Antisemitism and Sexualities Reconsidered, 13.-15.12.2021, Berlin

Anna-Carolin Augustin (German Historical Institute, Washington DC), Sebastian Bischoff (Paderborn Univ.), Kristoff Kerl (Univ. of Copenhagen), and Stefanie-Schüler-Springorum (Center for the Research on Antisemitism, TU Berlin)
Time: 13.-15.12.2021
Venue: Berlin
Registration by: 06.12.2021

Although constructions of Jewish sexualities and imaginations of Jewish attacks on sexual morals have played a significant role in modern antisemitic worldviews, – whether the same is true for premodern times has to be discussed –, only few historical studies have focused on the connection between sexualities and Jew-hatred. Against this backdrop, the conference aims to stimulate further research and debates on this topic.
In manifold ways, sexualities have played a crucial role in the history of judeophobia. Since ancient times, sexuality has been one of the fields where the borders between different communities, Jewish and otherwise, were drawn most fiercely. At least, since the rise of modern antisemitism imaginations of deviant and dangerous ‘Jewish’ sexualities have played a crucial role. In modern antisemitism, sexual desires attributed to Jews have been characterized by a transgression of the male-female binarity – a characteristic, which corresponds with constructions of Jewish effeminate manhood and masculinized womanhood. Whereas discourses ascribed ‘unmanly‘ desires to Jewish men in different ways, fantasies constructed Jewish women as seductive, passionate, and sexually active: attributes that have typically had a male connotation. At the same time, constructions of Jewish sexualities have reinforced notions of male activity and female passivity.
Historians have demonstrated that the alleged deviant sexualities of Jews were inscribed into their bodies. Since the end of the 17th century discursive linkages between the circumcised penis and sexual amorality were shaped in debates about Jewish bodies. In addition, antisemitic discourses also constructed Jews as forces that used their alleged social power to undermine sexual morals and the sexual order. Adolf Hitler accused Jews of ‘mongrelizing’ the ‘white race’, Sayyid Qutb, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, lamented that Jews spread a doctrine of ‘animalistic sexuality’, and contemporary far rightists fantasize about an alleged Jew-driven ‘porn conspiracy’, which they would use to turn whole countries into “masturbatoria” and by this means strengthen and expand their alleged social dominance.