In 2004 a French Jewish student union ran an ad against anti-Semitism using defaced images of Jesus and Mary. Denounced by an antiracist organization affiliated with Jewish interests, the ad was immediately pulled. Why? While the union intended the campaign to be provocative for what it suggested about anti-Semitism, it may ultimately have been most problematic for what it implied about “Frenchness.” This article argues that the campaign’s polysemy and ambiguity destabilized religious and national differences presumed to be self-evident in contemporary France. In doing so, it may have undermined mainstream Jewish institutional strategies that relied on the evocation of a stable French national “identity” to both fight anti-Semitism and produce Jewish belonging in France.
Jews, Jesus, and the Problem of Postcolonial French Identity
Kimberly A. Arkin is an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University. Her book Rhinestones, Religion, and the Republic: Fashioning Jewishness in France (2014) received a 2016 Jordan Schnitzer award from the Association for Jewish Studies. She is working on a manuscript about the surprising afterlives of Catholicism within French secularism, titled “Producing ‘French’ Sensibilities: Biomedical Experts and the Limits of Secular Morality in France.”
Kimberly A. Arkin; Jews, Jesus, and the Problem of Postcolonial French Identity. Public Culture 1 September 2017; 29 (3 (83)): 457–480. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-3869548
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