Unfinished Business: Anti-Semitism, Racial Capitalism, and the Long Age of Empire

The historical relationship between anti-Semitism and Orientalism is usually understood according to their overlapping representations of Jews and Muslims. In this essay, I begin by asking whether nineteenth-century French anti-Semitism and Orientalism might also be considered from the standpoint of a functional continuity. Reading an 1888 trio of anti-Semitic, imperialist novels by Louis Noir, I propose that empire offered modern anti-Semitism the solution to a problem vexing Orientalists and anti-Semites alike: how to denounce capitalism from a position immanent to the system. The result—what I call imperial anti-Semitism—in turn invites us to examine anti-Semitism’s contested place among racial capitalism’s global logics. Seeking to understand anti-Semitism’s twenty-first century resurgence, I make a case for anti-Semitism’s ongoing pertinence to the capitalist world order.

Dorian Bell
University of California, Santa Cruz