Race, Color, Identity: Rethinking Discourses about ‘Jews’ in the Twenty-First Century

Posted in Africa, Anthologies, Anthropology, Books, History, Judaism, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Religion, Social Science, United Kingdom, United States on 2013-07-19 00:38Z by Steven

Race, Color, Identity: Rethinking Discourses about ‘Jews’ in the Twenty-First Century

Berghahn Books
May 2013
398 pages
bibliog., index
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-85745-892-6
eBook ISBN: 978-0-85745-893-3

Edited by:

Efraim Sicher, Professor of Comparative and English Literature
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Advances in genetics are renewing controversies over inherited characteristics, and the discourse around science and technological innovations has taken on racial overtones, such as attributing inherited physiological traits to certain ethnic groups or using DNA testing to determine biological links with ethnic ancestry. This book contributes to the discussion by opening up previously locked concepts of the relation between the terms color, race, and “Jews”, and by engaging with globalism, multiculturalism, hybridity, and diaspora. The contributors—leading scholars in anthropology, sociology, history, literature, and cultural studies—discuss how it is not merely a question of whether Jews are acknowledged to be interracial, but how to address academic and social discourses that continue to place Jews and others in a race/color category.


  • Foreword / Sander Gilman
  • Introduction: Rethinking Discourses about “Jews” / Efraim Sicher
    • Chapter 1. “I’m not White – I’m Jewish”: The Racial Politics of American Jews / Cheryl Greenberg
    • Chapter 2. Reflections on Black/Jewish Relations in the Age of Obama / Ibrahim Sundiata
    • Chapter 3. Stains, Plots, and the Neighbor Thing: Jews, Blacks and Philip Roth’s Utopias / Adam Zachary Newton
    • Chapter 4. Spaces of Ambivalence: Blacks and Jews in New York City / Catherine Rottenberg
    • Chapter 5. African-American Culture, Anthropological Practices and the Jewish “Race” in Zora Neale Hurston’s Mules and Men / Dalit Alperovich
    • Chapter 6. Jewish Characters in Weeds: Reinserting ‘Race’ into the Postmodern Discourse on American Jews / Hannah Adelman Komy Ofir and Shlomi Deloia
    • Chapter 7. A Member of the Club? How Black Jews Negotiate Black Anti-Semitism and Jewish Racism / Bruce Haynes
    • Chapter 8. Ethiopian Immigrants in Israel: The Discourses of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Racism / Steven Kaplan
    • Chapter 9. Black-Jews in Academic and Institutional Discourse / Yonah Zianga
    • Chapter 10. The “Descendants of David” of Madagascar: Crypto-Judaic identities in 21st century Africa / Edith Bruder
    • Chapter 11. After the Fact: “Jews” in Post-1945 German Physical Anthropology / Amos Morris-Reich
    • Chapter 12. Genes as Jewish History?: Human Population Genetics in the Service of Historians / Noa Sophie Kohler and Dan Mishmar
    • Chapter 13. Sarrazin and the Myth of the “Jewish Gene” / Klaus Hödl
    • Chapter 14. Blood, Soul, Race, and Suffering: Full-Bodied Ethnography and Expressions of Jewish Belonging / Fran Markowitz
    • Chapter 15. Jews, Muslims, European Identities: Multiculturalism and Anti-Semitism in Britain / Efraim Sicher
    • Chapter 16. Brothers in Misery: Re-connecting Sociologies of Racism and Anti-Semitism / Glynis Cousin and Robert Fine
    • Chapter 17. Race by the Grace of God: Race, Religion, and the Construction of “Jew” and “Arab” / Ivan Davidson Kalmar
  • Select Bibliography
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
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People of God, Children of Ham: Making black(s) Jews

Posted in Africa, Articles, History, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion on 2009-10-04 00:41Z by Steven

People of God, Children of Ham: Making black(s) Jews

Journal of Modern Jewish Studies
Volume 8, Issue 2 (July 2009)
pages 237 – 254
DOI: 10.1080/14725880902949551

Bruce Haynes, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of California, Davis

Taxonomies inherited from the nineteenth century have shaped the discourse surrounding the racial identity and supposed roots of Ethiopian immigrants to Israel. Through their interactions with just a few colonial actors, some of whom were Christian missionaries, others who were Jewish Zionists, a small group of young Falashas developed an elite status in Ethiopia as the true lost Jews in Africa. While most historians specializing in the history of Ethiopia do not believe the Beta Israel are a “lost tribe” of the ancient Israelites, Ethiopian immigrants have altered their self-conceptions over the past hundred years and come to see themselves as both black and Jewish.  This essay offers an alternative reading of the Beta Israel narrative, and asserts that the transformation of their social identities are embedded in a political process of racialization tied to racial ideology, and both secular and religious institutions and the State. In the process of incorporation into western society, their social identities have been transmogrified from religious others in Ethiopia to co-religionists yet racial others in Israel.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Narrating the Racial Self: Symbolic Boundaries and the Reference Group Identification Among Biracial Black Jews

Posted in Identity Development/Psychology, Judaism, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, United States on 2009-10-04 00:30Z by Steven

Narrating the Racial Self: Symbolic Boundaries and the Reference Group Identification Among Biracial Black Jews

Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association
Marriott Hotel, Loews Philadelphia Hotel
Philadelphia, PA

45 pages

Bruce Haynes, Associate Professor
Sociology Depertment
University of California at Davis

Few studies of bi-racial or multiracial identity have considered the symbolic boundaries people use to establish their reference group identification to different social groups.  This analysis focuses on the ontological dimensions of social identification (Hart 1996) by considering the symbolic boundaries social actors use to emplot their life stories and claim membership in two distinct American ethno-racial groups, Blacks and Jews. The analysis seeks to answer two related questions: 1) How do self-identified Black and Jewish biracial individuals utilize symbolic boundaries in their personal narratives to claim membership in two publically recognized mutually exclusive groups? 2) To what degree traditional ethno/racial social boundaries have weakened as markers for social identification.  Although the content of any individual Black-Jewish identity is variable, many subjects report a “double-minority” status as both Black and Jewish, while others articulate identities as “Black Jews.”  The reproduction of Black and Jewish identity along traditional racial and ethnic group boundaries challenges both the presumed path towards the majority culture that is predicted by classic assimilation models, and romantic notions that the impact of race and the one drop rule has declined at the dawn of the twenty-first century.


The following analysis uses the intersection of Jewish and Black reference group identification as a way to explore the degree to which traditional ethno/racial social boundaries have weakened as markers for social identification among self-identified bi-racial Black and Jewish Americans. The data for this study is drawn from eleven in-depth life history interviews of self-identified Black and Jewish bi-racial people; five men and six women were selected who range from 22 to 46 years of age.

Self-identified bi-racial Black and Jewish Americans claim membership in two American ethno/racial groups that have historically been understood to be mutually exclusive. While holding a particular reference group identity is ultimately a matter of self-identifying with a specific group (Putnam 1993, 114), being both Black and Jewish requires making claims on both Black and Jewish collectives. Identity by definition carries consequences; otherwise it wouldn’t hold such salience to the orientations of social actors (Jenkins 1996)…

Read the entire paper here.

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