This book provides a rich and wide-ranging analysis of Jewish history and culture, relating them to theories of modernity and postmodernity and to recent debates on ethnicity and postcolonialism. The sixteen essays are divided into four parts, addressing psychoanalysis and gender, literary antisemitism, modernity/postmodernity and "the Jew", and the memory of the Holocaust. A Foreword and Afterword place these concerns in an extended multicultural and postcolonial context.
What is at stake when Jewish history and culture are inserted into current feminist, gay and lesbian, postcolonial and postmodern revisions of modernity? Even the radical reconstruction of modernity has created a host of new orthodoxies which themselves need to be unsettled. Along with an amorphous "political correctness", mainstream cultural studies has, routinely, written out the question of Jewishness, assuming it as part of a supposed "Judeo-Christian" tradition. On the other side of the barricades, however, those apologists for the efficacy of Western modernity have continued to banish Jewish difference from their brave new world in a desperate bid to signify the universality of the modern project.
The essays in this collection are written in the margins of these reductive oppositions. They recognize that the Jewish other is both at the heart of Western metropolitan culture and is also what must be excluded in order for dominant racial and sexual identities to be formed and maintained. There is a virtue in this ambivalent positioning, this center of the road, which characterizes Jewish history and culture both then and now.