Picturing Jews: Iconography and Racial Science

Mitchell Hart

in Studies in Contemporary Jewry: XI: Values, Interests, and Identity

Published in print May 1996 | ISBN: 9780195103311
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854585 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Contemporary Jewry

Picturing Jews: Iconography and Racial Science

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This chapter examines the role of visual images of Jews in social scientific texts produced by Jewish and non-Jewish writers, and illuminates the continuities and discontinuities in approaches to the question of race and collective identity. It focuses on the way in which Zionists employed iconography and racial science as one means of providing what they viewed as scientific justification for Jewish nationalist efforts. Jewish social science was far from monolithic; it encompassed liberal integrationists as well as nationalists. However, Zionists did take a particularly intense interest in the science of race, and they appeared comfortable embracing it. The racial identification of Jewry, in their view, was a scientific confirmation of the assertion that Jews constituted a distinct Volk, or nation. The interpretative strategy analyzed in this chapter looked to iconography, among other things, to help establish an essential identity or sameness among Jews, despite temporal and geographic differences.

Keywords: visual images; Jews; Zionists; iconography; racial science; Jewry; Volk; race; collective identity

Chapter.  9662 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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