"Without history we will be hopelessly adrift...[the historian's mission is] to destroy received and traditional myths in order to challenge the students to a relentless use of their critical minds."George L. Mosse
“The State University has thus both a peculiar power in the directness of its influence upon the whole people and a peculiar limitation in its dependence upon the people…..Herein is the source of its strength and the direction of its difficulties. For to fulfill its mission of uplifting the state to continuously higher levels the University must…..serve the time without yielding to it, it must recognize new needs without becoming subordinate to the immediately practical, to the short-sightedly expedient…..It must have the wisdom to make expenditures for results which pay manifold in enrichment….but which are not immediate and palpable.” – Frederick Jackson Turner, 1921
Mosse Program Documents
- 1852-1996 – History Department Catalogue Archive
- 1996 – George L. Mosse: Persecution of Lesbians and Gays in the Context of the National-Socialist Exercise of Power (pdf)
- 2000 – In Memoriam – George Lachmann Mosse (1918-1999) (pdf)
- 2001 – Elaine Reading, Reading Elaine By Jacob Stockinger (pdf)
- 2008 – George L. Mosse: An Exile at Home in the World (pdf)
- 2008 – Ethan Katz, “Displaced Historians, Dialectical Histories”
- 2009 – Professor David Sorkin (Former Chair of the Mosse Program Oversight Committee), An Appreciation by Ethan Katz (pdf)
- 2010 – “The First Ten Years: George Mosse’s Vision for the Mosse Program” by John Tortorice
- 2010 – Mosse Program Supports Symposium at Hebrew University (pdf)
- 2011 – Amihai Katz (1975-2011) (pdf)
- 2014: Joskowicz review of Karel Plessini, The Perils of Normalcy: George L. Mosse and the Remaking of Cultural History, 2014.
- 2014.09.01 – Steven Aschheim reviews “Eichmann Before Jerusalem” by Bettina Stangneth
- 2015.03.29 – Comic by Paul Buhle and Sabrina Jones, “Radical Walt! (Whitman, That Is)”
Mosse Program in the Press
- 2010: “The Art of Passionate Detachment” by Karel Plessini, the Mosse Program Visiting Scholar (pdf)
- 2014 – Listen to Mishy Harman on to the best of Our Knowledge
- 2014: Mosse Exchange Fellow Mishy Harman in The New York Times
- 2014.08.14: Rabbi Andy Bachman, former Mosse undergraduate student, in The New York Times
- 2015.09.23 – “What History Tells” Online Course on the UW-Madison Home Page
- 2015.09.24 – “What History Tells” Online Course in the Daily Cardinal
- 2015.10.14 – “What History Tells” Online Course in the Badger Herald
- Professor Biruté Ciplijauskaité received the 2015 Governor’s Archives Award for Archival Advocacy. Professor Ciplijauskaité has done a number of translations with the Mosse Program.
This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.
2020 Mosse Program Events
2019 Mosse Program Events
2018 Mosse Program Events
2017 Mosse Program Events
2017.01.02 – Tel Aviv University, “Place, Time, History: Celebrating International Scholarly Collaboration and Exchange” – Tel Aviv University
2017.02.22 – Daniel Gutwein, “The Class Deficiency of the Israeli Left,” and “The Populist Spell of the Israeli Right” – UW-Madison
2017.02.27 – Omri Shafer Raviv, “Early Dilemmas of the Israeli Occupation: Pacification, Modernization & the Reshaping of Palestine” – UW-Madison
2017.03.27 – “Confronting Antisemitism and Islamophobia: From the Middle Ages to Today” – UW-Madison
2017.03.29 – “A Beginner’s Guide to Podcasting” – UW-Madison
2016 Mosse Program Events
2016.03.11 – Udi Greenberg, “The Weimar Century” – UW-Madison
2016.04.26 – Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, “A Different Epistemology of Enlightenment” – UW-Madison
2016.05.30 – Joseph Boone, “Homoerotics of Orientalism” – Van Leer Jerusalem Institute
2016.07.12 – John Tortorice, “Rudolf Mosse: Businessman, Art Collector, and Philanthropist” – UW-Madison
2016.10.18 – Ronnie Ellenblum, “Multi-Cultural Jerusalem: A New Biography” – UW-Madison
2016.12.01 – Dagmar Herzog, “On Aggression: Psychoanalysis as Moral Politics in Post-Nazi Germany – The Hebrew University
2016.12.04-06 – Dagmar Herzog, “Unlearning Eugenics in Post-Nazi Europe” – The Hebrew University
2016.12.05 – Dagmar Herzog, “Cold War Freud” – The Hebrew University
2016.12.08 – “Virile Jews, Male-Male Eros and Zionism in Central Europe after World War I” – Tel Aviv University
2016.12.11 – Robert Beachy, “Gay Berlin” – The Hebrew University
2016 – Mosse-Lectures an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
2015 Mosse Program Events
2015.01.29 – John Hall, “The Intimacies of Ethnocide: Preserving Male Honor in the ‘Unholy’ Wars of Indian Removal” – UW-Madison
2015.01.29-04.09 – War and Intimacy Lecture Series – UW-Madison
2015.02.12 – Emily Levine, “Humboldt’s Gift: The German Research University in America” – UW-Madison
2015.02.26 – Tara Zahra, “Exodus for the East: Emigration and the Making of the Free World, 1889-Present” – UW-Madison
2015.03.12 – Daniel Ussishkin, “War Stories: The Military and the Social in Modern Imperial Britain” – UW-Madison
2015.04.09 – Dan Healey, “Thinking Again About Love and Death in Russia, 1914-1922” – UW-Madison
2015.11.09 – Michael Berkowitz, “Jews and Photojournalism” – UW-Madison
2015 – Mosse-Lectures an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
2014 Mosse Program Events
2014.02.28 – Waitman Beorn, “Marching Into Darkness: The German Army and the Holocaust in Belarus” – UW-Madison
2014.04.08 – Steven Aschheim, “The Complicated Political Economy of Empathy” – UW-Madison
2014.04.16 – Michael Meng, “The Evil of Blind Obedience: Arendt’s Interpretation of Nazism in Historical Perspective – UW-Madison
2014.08.15-2010.12.31 – Skye Doney, Eric O’Connor, “1914: Then Came Armageddon” Exhibit – UW-Madison
2014.09.09-11 – Sarah Abrevaya Stein, “Extraterritorial Dreams: Sephardi Jews, Citizenship, and the Calamitous Twentieth Century” – UW-Madison
2014.09.17 – Atina Grossmann, “Distance and Intimacy: Close Encounters between Jews and Germans in the Aftermath of Catastrophe” – UW-Madison
2014.09.17-12.11 – War and Intimacy Lecture Series – UW-Madison
2014.10.08 – Adam Hochschild, “1914-1918: The War Within the War” – UW-Madison
2014.10.09 – Elspeth Brown, “Queering Glamour in Interwar Fashion Photography: The ‘Amorous Regard’ of George Platt Lynes” – UW-Madison
2014.10.23 – Lucy Noakes, “Burying the People of ‘The People’s War’: Death, the State, and Intimacy in Second World War Britain” – UW-Madison
2014.11.17-18 – Paul Buhle, Paul Soglin, Nick Thorkelson, “Mosse Fest 2014”
2014.11.20 – Terry Peterson, “Fighting for Intimacy: Counterinsurgency, Gender Politics, and Colonial Utopianism in the Algerian War” – UW-Madison
2014.12.11 – David Harrisville, “Holding the Hands of Dying Men: Wehrmacht Chaplains on the Eastern Front” – UW-Madison
2014 – Mosse-Lectures an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
2013 Mosse Program Events
2013 – Mosse-Lectures an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
2013.03.19 – Arie Dubnov, “What is Jewish (if Anything) about Isaiah Berlin’s Political Philosophy?” – UW-Madison
2012 Mosse Program Events
2012 – Mosse-Lectures an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
2012.03.08 – Ambassador John L. Hirsch, “Memory and History: Reflections on Nuremberg and Other Places”
This lecture is sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies, with additional support from the University Lectures Committee, the George L. Mosse Program in History, the African Studies Program, Global Studies, Center for German and European Studies (CGES), and the Center for European Studies (CES).
About the speaker:
John L. Hirsch (PhD ’65) joined the International Peace Institute (IPA) in July 1998 following the completion of a 32-year career in the United States Foreign Service. After three and a half years as Vice President he became Senior Fellow on January 1, 2002. He has been responsible for IPA’s program on “The United Nations and International Terrorism” in 2002-2003, and served as Acting Director of the Africa Program in 1999 and again from September 2004-December 2005.
Before joining IPA he served as United States Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone from 1995-98. Ambassador Hirsch’s extensive African experience includes assignments in Somalia in 1984-86, and subsequently as Political Advisor to the Commander of UNITAF, General Robert Johnston, and as Deputy to President Bush’s Special Envoy, Ambassador Robert Oakley in 1992-93.
Ambassador Hirsch also served as Consul General in Johannesburg, South Africa from 1990-93, the years of transition from apartheid to non-racial multiparty democracy. His earlier assignments in Israel at the start of the Middle East peace process in the mid-seventies and, subsequently, at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and in Pakistan have dealt with major issues of multilateral diplomacy and United Nations peacekeeping. Ambassador Hirsch was a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in 1993-94 and Diplomat-in-Residence at Medgar Evers College, The City University of New York in 1994-95. He was Director of the International Fellows Program at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs for the 2000-01 academic year. Since 2002-2003 he is Adjunct Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College, directing its United Nations program in New York City.
Ambassador Hirsch received his B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University in 1957 and his Ph.D. in European History from the University of Wisconsin in 1965. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Turin, Italy in 1962-1963, where he wrote a dissertation on the Italian Resistance Movement and its impact on postwar Italian political developments.
2012.04.18 – Mitchell Cohen, “Wagner and the Politics of Opera” – UW-Madison
2012.10.25 – Udi Greenberg, German-Jewish Émigrés and the Foundations of the Cold War: The Case of Ernst Fraenkel and the ‘Global New Deal’ – UW-Madison
This lecture will explore the role of German-Jewish émigrés in one of the most dramatic projects of modern politics: the building of the Cold War alliance between West Germany and the United States. The lecture will focus on the political theoretician, Ernst Fraenkel, who was one of the most influential democratic thinkers in postwar Germany. During the 1950s, Fraenkel was a key agent in building ties between the United States and German labor, student organizations, and women associations. He was the founder of “American Studies” in Germany and consulted to many U.S. diplomats. This paper however will show that the actions and networks that Fraenkel helped establish were not merely the product of U.S. pressure and its Cold War campaigns in Europe. Rather, their origins lay in internal political debates in pre-Nazi Germany, in which Jewish intellectuals played a crucial role. During the 1920s, thinkers like Fraenkel envisioned large-scale social reforms, and called Germany to establish a welfare state. After fleeing to the United States from Nazism, they believed that the New Deal fulfilled this vision, and when WWII came to an end, they worked inside the U.S. diplomatic establishment to disseminate similar social reforms around the world. This lecture will therefore argue that German-Jewish émigrés like Fraenkel played a crucial role in merging U.S. diplomatic policies and local German democratization, a role that was enabled only through their unique experiences before and after the war.
Udi Greenberg is an Assistant Professor of History at Dartmouth College. He has studied in Israel, Germany, and the United States, and received his PhD from the Hebrew University at Jerusalem. During his studies, he spent two years in Madison, one of them as a fellow of the George Mosse Program. He published several articles on European thought and international history, and is currently completing a book on German Émigrés and the Cold War.
2012.11.13-15 – Martin Jay, “After the Eclipse: The Light of Reason in Late Critical Theory” – The Hebrew University
2012 – “German Times – Israeli Perspectives: Conference in Honour of Professor Moshe Zimmermann”
2011 Mosse Program Events
2011 – Mosse-Lectures an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
2011.06.13 – Jonathan Judaken, “On George Mosse: Modernity, Culture, and ‘the Jew'” – University of Haifa
2010 Mosse Program Events
2010 – Mosse-Lectures an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
2010 – Leo Baeck Institute, “Letter Exchange” Exhibit
2010.04.24 – Mitchell Hart, “From Shtetl to Jungle: Darwinism, Eugenics, and the Reinterpretation of Jewish History” – UW-Madison
2010.04.12 – Till van Rahden, “Nationalism and Its Discontents” – UW-Madison
2010.04.26 – Diego Olstein, “Deglobalization and the Global Rise of Anti-Hegemonic Party States” – UW-Madison
Historians offer multiple plausible accounts of the history of globalization. One prevalent narrative portrays it as a U-shaped graph representing one peak from 1850 to 1914, and a second from 1973 until the present day. This lecture will examine several ways of approaching this history, and will offer an interpretation of the valley between the two peaks of globalization within the context of global politics (1917-1976).
Diego Olstein received his PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2002. He has taught in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem since 2004. This year he is the George L.Mosse Visiting Faculty Scholar affiliated with the George L. Mosse Program in History where he is teaching an undergraduate seminar on Medieval Spanish history. His research and teaching concentrates in two major fields: Medieval Spain and World History.
2010.06.09-10, “Culture & Catastrophe in Modern European History” – The Hebrew University
2010.09.14-16, Mary Gluck, “The Invisible Jewish Budapest: Assimilation and Urban Modernity in Central Europe” – UW-Madison
2010.09.23 – Errol Morris, “Elusive Truths: The Cinema of Errol Morris” – UW-Madison
2010.10.06 – Michael Wildt, “An Uncompromising Generation: The Nazi Leadership of the Reich Security Main Office” – UW-Madison
2010.10.28 – Seymour Drescher, “Slave versus Free Labor in Western Culture” – UW-Madison
Coerced and free labor have coexisted from antiquity to Auschwitz. Only at end of the eighteenth century, however, did Western writers and political activists begin to discuss the comparative performance of slave and free labor as systems of production and the accumulation of wealth. This talk will first address the issue of how and why such comparisons became a salient issue during the last 250 years. It will then consider some of the historical outcomes of policies that were subsequently based upon the substitution of one form of labor for the other.
2010.11.30 – Justin Spring, “Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade” – UW-Madison
2010.12.02 – Jost Hermand, “Fall of an Empire: Rudolf Mosse’s Art Collection” – UW-Madison
2009 Mosse Program Events
2009.09.30 – Roger Lancaster, “The Trouble with Nature: Sex in Popular Science and Social Movements” – UW-Madison
2009 – Mosse-Lectures an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
2009.10.14 – Amos Oz – Humboldt-Universität Mosse Lecture
2008 Mosse Program Events
2008 – Mosse-Lectures an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
2008.02.23 – Fascism, Nazism & Sexuality – Brown University
2008.06.11 – Brent D. Shaw, “State Intervention and Holy Violence: Waco, Paleostrovsk, Timgad,” The Hebrew University
2008.06.30 – David Sorkin, “The Religious Enlightenment: Protestants, Jews and Catholics from London to Vienna,” The Hebrew University
2008.10.23 – From Hate to Hope: Film and Lecture Series
2008.10.24 – Dagmar Herzog – Sex in Crisis: Sex, Politics & the Religious Right in the Bush Years – UW-Madison
2008.10.24-26 – The Weimar Moment: Liberalism, Political Theology and Law
2008.11.14-16 – Michael E. Marrus, “Some Measure of Justice” – The Hebrew University
2008.12 – Michael R. Marrus, “The Last Chapter of the Holocaust in the Courtroom: Reparation and Restitution” – The Hebrew University
Prof. Marrus, author of The Holocaust in History and The Politics of Assimilation, is one of the most renowned historians of Modern European and Jewish History. Prof. Marrus will speak about the problem of “The Last Chapter of the Holocaust in the Courtroom: Reparation and Restitution”
Michael R. Marrus is Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor Emeritus of Holocaust Studies at the University of Toronto. A fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, he has been a visiting professor at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and UCLA; and a visiting fellow of St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Having recently completed seven years as dean of graduate studies, his interests have turned toward issues of law and historical representation.
2007 Mosse Program Events
2006 Mosse Program Events
2006.03.27-30 – Ruth Harris, “The Intimate Politics of the Dreyfus Affair”- UW-Madison
Lecture 1 – “Scheurer-Kestner’s Feast”
Monday, March 27, 2006
Lecture 2 – “The Muse and the Historian”
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Lecture 3 – “Three Jewish Brothers”
Thursday, March 30, 2006
At the end of 1894, a Jewish captain named Alfred Dreyfus was accused of treason and was sent to Devil’s Island to live in solitary confinement for the rest of his life. It was not until 1906, more than ten years later, that he was finally fully rehabilitated for a crime he never committed. In the interim, the Dreyfus Affair convulsed France, as supporters of Dreyfus fought against those who sought to keep him in prison despite mounting evidence of his innocence and even the confession of the real traitor.
The Dreyfus Affair was one of the turning points of modern French political history, and has been commemorated by the Republican elite as a triumph of benevolent and rational secularism that inoculated France from the temptations of interwar fascism. Such an interpretation pits Left against Right, secularism against Catholicism, rationalism against obscurantism and the universalism of the French Revolutionary tradition against an exclusive and aggressive nationalism. Like the myth of ‘resistance’ used to salvage national pride after defeat and collaboration during World War II, the fable of Dreyfusard triumph provides a comforting view of a ‘true’ France battling successfully against fanaticism.
The lectures overturn this complacent vision by rejecting the conventional wisdom of the Dreyfusards as intellectuals who unambiguously supported the cause of rationalism. Rather, the lectures show how their political commitment was inspired not only by humanitarian idealism, but also by venomous hatreds, fantasies of brutalization, and conspiratorial fears. Using thousands of pages of documents never before cited, the lectures explore the emotional world of leading Dreyfusards and show how their political advocacy grew out of their passionate friendships, love affairs and sibling relations. All three lectures focus on the role of history-of classical antiquity, the Bible, the Renaissance, and the enlightenment-in providing both heroic models and examples of conflict, which, they believed, supplied important lessons for waging war against their anti-Dreyfusard opponents. Although the Dreyfusards were often leading anticlericals, Ruth Harris will show how their ‘mystique’ often came to share the missionizing zeal and even authoritarianism of their religious and right-wing enemies.
Ruth Harris is Fellow and Tutor in Modern History, New College, and Lecturer in the Faculty of History at the University of Oxford. She received her doctorate in history from St. Antony’s College, Oxford in 1984. She is the author of Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age, Viking Press, 1999, and Murder and Madness: Medicine, Law and Society in the Fin de Siècle Oxford University Press, 1989. Currently, she is working on The Dreyfus Affair forthcoming from Penguin/Metropolitan, 2008.
2006.04.07 – Martha Vicinus, “The History of Lesbian History” – UW-Madison
2006.04.28-30 – Reckoning with the Past: Perpetrators, Accomplices, and Victims in Post-Totalitarian Narratives and Politics – UW-Madison
2006.06.05-08 – Eurasian Nomads as Agents of Cultural Change
Institute of Advanced Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Givat Ram Campus
2006 – Mosse-Lectures an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
2006.12.26-28 – Jacob Talmon and Totalitarianism Today: Legacy and Revision
The Israeli Academy of Arts and Sciences
43 Jabotinsky Street, Jerusalem
2005 Mosse Program Events
2005.02.28-2005.04.21 – Mosse Program, Spring Schedule – UW-Madison
2005.03.04 – Alon Confino, “Culture and the Holocaust” – UW-Madison
2005.04.15-16 – Jewish History Encounters Economy
Jewish History Encounters Economy, April 15-16, 2005, University of Wisconsin-Madison
For several decades — from roughly the end of World War II until recently — scholars of Jewish history devoted scant attention to economic issues, despite the fact that Jews’ commercial activities had been a subject of great concern to many Europeans in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The international workshop “Jewish History Encounters Economy,” which was organized by Gideon Reuveni and sponsored by the George L. Mosse Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, sought to place economic issues once again at the center of Jewish history and even called for an “economic turn” in Jewish studies.
In his introductory remarks, Reuveni (University of Madison-Wisconsin) showed that economic issues aroused a great deal of interest in the nineteenth century among Jews who were concerned with the emergence and meaning of capitalism. This was even more the case at the beginning of the twentieth century, when many Jews responded to the economic theories of Max Weber and Werner Sombart which ascribed Jews a special role in the emergence of capitalism and economic modernity. Yet, according to Reuveni, economic issues became marginal to postwar Jewish historiography — although a number of scholars, many of them relatively young, have recently begun to return to the economy and reexamine its crucial role in Jewish history. Reuveni then called for Jewish historians to engage not only with issues of production, distribution, and consumption but also with business networks and the development of trust, in order to demonstrate how Jewish identity has been embedded in broader social and economic realms.
In the workshop’s keynote address, Derek Penslar (University of Toronto) followed a similar line of argumentation and provided an overview and analysis of the historiography on economic issues in Jewish history. While the “Wissenschaft des Judentums” — the nineteenth-century German-Jewish movement that developed a systematic, scholarly approach to Judaism — mostly shied away from economic history, many Jewish historians in interwar Eastern Europe became interested in economic matters, in many cases from a Zionist perspective. However, after the Second World War, economic approaches waned, and the question of a Jewish homo economicus became taboo. Consequently, social and cultural historians often considered phenomena such as class in cultural rather than in economic terms. Penslar also noted that many important works that opened up economic perspectives on the Jewish past were written by scholars who were not trained specialists in Jewish history, but rather historians who worked on Jews within European social and cultural history and who thus brought fresh methodological insights into the field of Jewish history. Such a list includes: Natalie Zemon Davis, Jonathan Israel, and most recently, Yuri Slezkine. Nevertheless, economic issues remain on the fringes of Jewish history, which motivated Penslar to call for an “economic turn” in Jewish studies. In general, Penslar (and other participants) noted that economic history and matters of economic power are increasingly neglected in history departments today, even as many departments of economics remove economic history from their curricula.
Although Penslar noted that in recent years early modernists were more likely to focus on the economy than late modernists, only the first panel, entitled “Economy and Cultural Exchange,” dealt with the period before the early nineteenth century. In his paper, Adam Teller (University of Haifa) discussed and critiqued the middlemen theory, an influential model for the conceiving of the economic position of Jews in early modern Poland-Lithuania. Developed in the 1940s and fashionable from the 70s into the 90s, this theory describes the tendency of immigrants or immigrant groups to inhabit particular economic niches that are ethnically bound and which often include high risk business activities. (Chinese immigrants in Indonesia and other parts of South Asia and Indians in twentieth-century South Africa are other examples of such groups.) Teller claimed middlemen theory is too general to accurately describe the concrete historical situation of the Jews in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, who, he argued, were integrated into the Polish political and economic systems, and who occupied a place as clearly defined as an estate in a hierarchical feudal system. Not only did economic contacts imply cultural transfer — such as the attempts of Jews to copy the nobles’ lifestyle — but ethnic solidarity was often limited, as illustrated by the great number of regulations that sought to limit competition among Jewish merchants. To depict Polish Jews solely as middlemen would mean, according to Teller, overlooking the deep influence that economic contacts had on cultural and religious matters.
While Teller questioned the value of the middlemen theory, Susanne Bennewitz (University of Basel) presented a case study of “real” middlemen in Basel. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the business of shmoozers [brokers] developed in the broad area between Switzerland and the French Alsace. This practice consisted of offering middleman services for wholesale and retail business, money and bills of exchange, and marriages. Though accusations against the shmoozers never disappeared, and some sources betray an ambivalent popular perception, the business was widely accepted around 1815 in public as well as in court.
In the panel’s third paper, Jonathan Karp (State University of New York at Binghamton) recalled that amid all the discussion of Jews’ role in the rise of modern capitalism, we often forget that Jews were also characterized as distinctively backward and bound to the feudal system, as in the case of the representation of Jews in eighteenth-century Alsace. Fichte, Marx and even Weber linked Jewish economic occupations to the nobility and thus regarded Jews’ economic role as reactionary. Yet, Karp did not propose substituting the image of the Jew as economically backward for the portrayal of Jews as economic modernizers. He urged, rather, that we appreciate the complexities and ambiguities in the economic position of Jews in early modern Europe.
On the second day, the presentations were equally divided between theoretical treatments of Jews and the economy and more empirical case studies of Jews’ commercial activities. In the panel “Thinking in Economic Terms about Jews,” Grit Schorch (University of Leipzig) dealt with the attitudes toward the economy in the writings of Moses Mendelssohn, a surprisingly unexamined topic among scholars of the Berlin Haskalah. In his thoughts on economics, Mendelssohn, in many respects, followed Menasseh ben Israel in conceiving of Jews as a useful part of society. Mendelssohn, himself a successful silk manufacturer, in contrast to many of his contemporary thinkers, regarded trade as a useful occupation.
Sharon Gordon (Hebrew University, Jerusalem) explored nineteenth-century connections between economy and conversion. She drew an opposition between conversions which were understood as “essential” and those viewed as “nominal,” meaning a formal change of identity without a meaningful religious transformation. Gordon showed how the latter form of conversion was seen by many nineteenth-century observers as a kind of economic act, akin to an exchange of currencies. While Theodor Mommsen argued that Jews had already fulfilled their destiny by transforming barter into a nominal system based on money, and thus no longer had any reason for remaining Jewish, Werner Sombart rejected Jewish conversion to Christianity as opportunistic; significantly, both associated Jewish religious change with economic transformations.
In the panel “Imagining the Homo Economicus Judaicus,” Kirill Postoutenko (University of Southern California) also looked at economic metaphors in representations of Jews and Jewishness. Specifically, he analyzed the use of wandering as a kind of circulation in the writings of Dostoevsky and Marx. Both, following different Hegelian traditions, described the Jewish God as abstract — as money represents an abstraction of actual wealth — and equated the historical teleology of Judaism (wandering) with the economic teleology of capitalism (circulation). Yet while Dostoevsky privileged a kind of antimodern nativism and extolled the virtues of rootedness in the soil, Marx emphasized universalism and the value of human labor.
Jerry Z. Muller (The Catholic University of America, Washington) presented a reexamination of the writings of Ber Borochov and Ernest Gellner for their insights on economics and nationalism. Borechov, an early twentieth-century socialist-Zionist, and a once important figure who has drifted into obscurity, portrayed nationalism as a product of capitalistic development. He claimed that the abnormal conditions of production would not lead to class conflict, but rather to conflict between national groups. Muller showed how Gellner’s theory of the development of nations and nationalism drew on Borochov in this respect, especially in regard to Eastern Europe. That is, Gellner also grounded the rise of ethnic nationalism in economic developments.
Nicolas Berg (University of Leipzig) then traced the evolution of the term “Luftmensch” [literally: air person or person not grounded] and its varying associations with Jews. He argued that while the term was originally used by people such as Max Nordau in the nineteenth century to describe Jews who were excluded from gainful employment, it became increasingly accepted as a description of assimilated Western European Jews. Berg claimed that “Luftmensch” referred less and less to socio-economic categories, and turned into a general critique of Judaism as lacking grounding and balance. It lost its ironic, self-critical implications and took on increasingly sharp anti-Semitic overtones.
Sarah Stein (University of Washington-Seattle) spoke about an international network of Jewish merchants who were active in the trans-Atlantic trade of ostrich feathers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This network was primarily established by Eastern European Jewish immigrants to South Africa after 1880, and Jews soon made up some ninety percent of local and international merchants in the ostrich feather trade. With the case of the ostrich feather trade, Stein demonstrated the interweaving of demographic and occupational patterns among this large immigrant group. On the one hand, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe came to South Africa, London, Paris and North America in large numbers after 1880 and thus could reactivate and use already existing networks. Second, many of these merchants already were involved in fur or textile trade before and so could rely on existing skills. Stein also discussed the fashion of ostrich feather wearing in pre-World War I metropolises and thus linked her analysis of Jewish trade networks to questions of taste and consumption.
Sarah E. Wobick (University of Wisconsin-Madison) turned to the problem of consumption and its meaning for Jewish identity by examining the case of coffeehouses. Here acts of buying and selling cannot only be seen as an economic exchange, since, as Wobick argued, coffeehouses were are a social space. Coffeehouse visits by Jews in the early nineteenth century represented an attempt to enter the new bourgeois society and to lay symbolic belonging within this group. Purchasing coffee in a coffeehouse, then, may be seen as the purchase of a social place.
Paul Lerner (University of Southern California) addressed the question of Jews and consumption from a different angle. In his presentation on the “Jewish department store” in German politics and culture, he examined representations and images of department stores in Germany around the turn of the century, a time when opposition to mass consumption coincided with a new rise of a new kind of antisemitism. The images included not only accusations of cheapness and shady business practices, but also allegations of sexual depravity, betraying a discomfort with female desire, especially in light of the fact that women comprised a large percentage of the sales staff and also of the visitors and consumers in the stores.
Michael Miller (Central European University) introduced the example of Moritz Jellinek who played a significant role in the modernization of the Hungarian economy in the nineteenth century. Coming to Pest from Moravia, he quickly became integrated into the new society and saw the economic function of Jews in the Hungarian economy as the fulfillment of patriotic duties. Though rejecting petty trade as most of his contemporaries, Jellinek depicted Jews active in commerce as useful and productive.
In the concluding session, Benjamin Braude (Boston College) sought to broaden the scope of analysis by emphasizing perceptions of Jews’ economic role in Ottoman history. He recalled the image of the Sephardic economic superman in the early modern period. In his final remarks, Derek Penslar added that the paradigm of Jews’ place in the emergence of capitalism still seems almost unavoidable in Jewish economic history. He also noted that most of the conference papers dealt with representations and perceptions and only several analyzed the actual economic activities of Jews. Penslar also urged consideration of Zionism and the construction of the State of Israel as an economic project and undertaking, a perspective seldom thematized in Jewish studies. Finally, Jonathan Zatlin (Boston University) stressed two other points in his concluding reflections. First, he called attention to a continuous discourse on Jewish unethical business behavior that spanned the premodern and the modern. Second, Zatlin called for breaking down the barriers that separate cultural and economic history, since culture and economy are intertwined, mutually constitutive forces.
2005.04.22 – Shlomo Avineri, “Glimmers of Hope in the Middle East? Israeli Disengagement from Gaza and a New Palestinian Leadership” – UW-Madison
2005.06.02-07 – Gerda Lerner, “What is Women’s History and Why Should I Study It?” – The Hebrew University
2005.11.27-29 – Fergus G. B. Millar – The Hebrew University
2004 Mosse Program Events
2004.05.07-09 – Political Religions in the Modern Era: A Conference in Honor of Stanley G. Payne
2004.07.12-14 – Schloss Elmau-Mosse Conference, “At the Cutting Edge: Rethinking German and Jewish Cultural and Intellectual History
2004.11.29-30 – International Conference, “The Sword and the Cross”
2004.11.30-2004.12.06 – Jan Assmann, “The Rise of Monotheism in the Ancient World – The Hebrew University
I What is Polytheism?
Any reflection about the nature of these new religious movements which we subsume under the term “monotheism” should start with an attempt towards a better understanding of “polytheism”. This will be topic of my first lecture. Ancient Egypt will serve as a paradigm of polytheism. The basic idea is that a polytheistic “pantheon” is not a random accumulation of deities but a structured system giving structure and meaning to the human world in its three dimensions of nature, polity and personal biography.
II All Gods are One: Evolutionary and Inclusive Monotheism
Already in the 17th century when the terms “monotheism” and “polytheism” were not yet coined, R. Cudworth stated that all religions were basically monotheistic in that they acknowledged only one supreme deity as origin or creator of the universe. In our time, C. S. Lewis said that monotheism should be regarded not as the opposite but as the maturity of polytheism. This holds true for an evolutionary trend that can be observed in Indian, Mesopotamian, Greek and Egyptian religions. Again, the lecture will concentrate on Egypt to show the various steps this “evolutionary monotheism” took to evolve around the basic idea of divine unity, which Cudworth was right to postulate.
III No god but God: Revolutionary and Exclusive Monotheism
Starting with the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten in the 14th c. BCE, and continuing with those movements in Biblical history which the name “Moses” stands for, the ancient world saw the advent of a form of monotheism which – at least in its own understanding – opposed traditional religion and related to what went before in terms of revolution rather than evolution. The lecture will concentrate on the most problematic aspect of revolutionary and exclusive monotheism which is the language of violence, trying to show that violence is not a necessary consequence but only an implicit potentiality of monotheism.
Jan Assmann studied Egyptology, Archaeology and Greek philology at Heidelberg, Munich, Göttingen and Paris. Dr. phil. 1965, Dr. phil. habil. 1971 (both Egyptology, University of Heidelberg). 1976 – 2003 full professor of Egyptology (Heidelberg).
His main fields of research are Ancient Egyptian literature and religion in the context of Comparative Literature and Religious Studies, Egyptian funerary beliefs and practices, Theban tombs of the Ramesside period; cultural theory (especially “cultural memory”); history of religion, especially the rise of monotheism in the ancient world; early modern concepts of Egyptian culture (?Egyptomania”).
He has been visiting professor at Collège de France, Paris (May-June 1988), Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris (1998); Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris (1999); Yale (September-October 1988, spring term 2002), Rice (Oct 2000); Hebrew University, Jerusalem (1990), Dormitio Abbey, Jerusalem (September-October 1996, April 2000); Fondazione San Carlo, Modena (May 2000), Houston (Rice: Oct 2000), Yale (spring 2002, 2003).
He is a member of the Academy of Sciences and Humanities Heidelberg and of the Academia Europea; correspondent member of the German Archaeological Institute since 1973; Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (1984/85); Scholar, Getty Center for the History of Arts and the Humanities (1994/95); fellow, C.F. von Siemens-Stiftung Munich (1998/99); fellow, IFK Vienna (2004).
Awards: Max-Planck-Forschungspreis 1996; Deutscher Historikerpreis 1998. Prix Psyché 2000; D. theol.h.c. (Münster, 1998); PhD h.c. (Yale, 2004)..
Field-work at Thebes, Upper Egypt, since 1966, concentrating on tombs of the 25th and 26th dynasties (1966-1974) and on tombs of the “Ramesside” period, 19th and 20th dynasties (since 1977).
2003 Mosse Program Events
2003.09.12-13, Roots of Antisemitism Workshop: The Second Mosse Workshop
Sponsored by the UW-Madison Center for German and European Studies (CGES)
Religious roots contributing to antisemitism will be the subject of the second Mosse Workshop at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Proceedings will be held on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 12 and 13.
Spanning the Roman Empire and continuing through the Reformation up through the 18th century, the conference will bring together participants from Germany, Canada and UW-Madison. Subjects will include legal aspects of antisemitism, ways in which Jews and various Christian denominations regarded each other, the portrait that media painted of Jewish people and more.
George Mosse was UW-Madison’s Bascom-Weinstein Professor of Jewish Studies until his retirement in 1989. He died in 1999. Since Mosse had been known around the world as a preeminent scholar of European intellectual thought and fascism, the workshop is intended to honor his memory, according to organizer Klaus Berghahn, UW-Madison professor of German.
In addition to his work at UW-Madison, Mosse was the first Koebner Professor at Hebrew University and the first J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Senior Scholar-in-Residence at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., where he conducted research at the museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. Workshop sessions are free and open to the public. They will begin at 9:30 a.m. and take place in 203 Ingraham Hall. A reception and dinner will wrap up the workshop. For dinner reservations, more information or a complete schedule, contact the UW-Madison Center for German and European Studies, (608) 265-8032 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2003.04.10 – Robert Alter, “Kafka, Agnon, and the Ordeal of Virility” – UW-Madison
2003.09.16-26 – Emilio Gentile, “Italian Fascism” – UW-Madison
2002 Mosse Program Events
2002.04.01-03 – Christopher Browning, “Collected Memories: Holocaust History and Post-War Testimony” – UW-Madison
2002.10.28 – Anson Rabinbach, “Staging Antifascism: The Brown Book of the Hitler Terror” – UW-Madison
2002.11.19 – Amos Elon, “The Pity of it All: German Jews before Hitler, 1743-1933” – UW-Madison
2001 Mosse Program Events
2001.04.23 – George Chauncey, “The History of the Closet”
2001.09.07-09 – An Historian’s Legacy: George L. Mosse and Recent Research on Fascism, Society and Culture