McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
anti-Semitism, antisemitism, racism, proteophobia, Adorno, Critical Theory, Psychoanalysis, Bauman, Jewish
Anti-Semitism is a pervasive global issue, particularly prominent in the United States. Studying and defining anti-Semitism prove remarkably challenging for scholars, leading to inadequate understanding and exclusion from contemporary academic discourse and social justice initiatives. In this dissertation, I made the case that anti-Semitism is hard to categorize, stemming, in part, from the difficulty in categorizing what it is to be Jewish, which seems to be multi-form (a figure of thought, a race, an ethnicity, a religion, a nation, none of the above). In thinking about the difficulty in categorization, I constellated various instances of anti-Jewish practices across historical epochs where the Jew stands in the changing and ambivalent position of the troubling outsider-within—both for others, and for Jews as well. I found that the difficulty in thinking categorically is mimicked in the very scholarly study of anti-Semitism. To account for this double difficulty (in the subject and its study), I turned to Zygmunt Bauman’s concept of proteophobia, or the anxious fear of what doesn’t fit into clear-cut categories. I proposed that thinking of anti-Semitism through the lens proteophobia can help scholars think about anti-Semitism (and Jewishness) without lapsing into essentialism, exceptionalism, or eternalism. I offered a methodology for studying proteophobia and anti-Semitism through psychoanalysis and the return to psychoanalytic critical theory, specifically Adorno’s formulation of a negative dialectics and negative psychology. I explored the broad implications of the investigation for politics, education, and psychoanalysis, and the specific implications for Jewish identity and resistance to anti-Semitism.
Strosberg, B. (2023). Negative Psychology of Anti-Semitism: Fear of the Uncategorizable (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/2195