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Authors: Daniel Boyarin,Daniel Itzkovitz,Ann Pellegrini

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Queer Theory and the Jewish Question

BOOK: Queer Theory and the Jewish Question
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Daniel Boyarin, Daniel Itzkovitz, and Ann Pellegrini,




Publishers Since 1893

New York Chichester, West Sussex

Copyright © 2003 Columbia University Press All rights reserved

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Queer theory and the Jewish question / Daniel Boyarin,

Daniel Itzkovitz, and Ann Pellegrini, editors.

p. cm.—(Between men—between women) ISBN 0–231–11374–9 (cloth : alk. paper)—

ISBN 0–231–11375–7 (pbk. : alk. paper)

1. Jewish gays. 2. Jewish lesbians. I. Boyarin, Daniel. II. Itzkovitz, Daniel. III. Pellegrini, Ann

  1. Series.

    HQ75.15.Q5 2003 305.892'4—dc21


    Casebound editions of Columbia University Press books are printed on permanent and durable acid-free paper.

    Printed in the United States of America c 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

    p 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  1. Between Men ~ Between Women Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Studies
    Lillian Faderman and Larry Gross, Editors

    Advisory Board of Editors

    Claudia Card Terry Castle John D’Emilio Esther Newton Anne Peplau Eugene Rice Kendall Thomas Jeffrey Weeks

    Between Men ~ Between Women is a forum for current lesbian and gay schol- arship in the humanities and social science. The series includes both books that rest within specific traditional disciplines and are substantially about gay men, bisexuals, or lesbians and books that are interdisciplinary in ways that reveal new insights into gay, bisexual, or lesbian experience, transform tradi- tional disciplinary methods in consequence of the perspectives that experience provides, or begin to establish lesbian and gay studies as a freestanding inquiry. Established to contribute to an increased understanding of lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men, the series also aims to provide through that understanding a wider comprehension of culture in general.



    Strange Bedfellows: An Introduction

    Daniel Boyarin, Daniel Itzkovitz, and Ann Pellegrini

    Category Crises: The Way of the Cross and the Jewish Star

    Marjorie Garber

    Epistemology of the Closet

    Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

    Queers Are Like Jews, Aren’t They? Analogy and Alliance Politics

    Janet R. Jakobsen

    Freud, Blüher, and the
    Secessio Inversa: Männerbünde

    Homosexuality, and Freud’s Theory of Cultural Formation

    Jay Geller

    Jew Boys, Queer Boys: Rhetorics of Antisemitism and Homophobia in the Trial of Nathan “Babe” Leopold Jr.

    and Richard “Dickie” Loeb

    Paul B. Franklin

    Viva la Diva Citizenship: Post-Zionism and Gay Rights

    Alisa Solomon


    Homophobia and the Postcoloniality of the “Jewish Science”

    Daniel Boyarin

    Messianism, Machismo, and “Marranism”:

    The Case of Abraham Miguel Cardoso

    Bruce Rosenstock

    The Ghost of Queer Loves Past: Ansky’s “Dybbuk”

    and the Sexual Transformation of Ashkenaz

    Naomi Seidman

    Barbra’s “Funny Girl” Body

    Stacy Wolf

    Tragedy and Trash: Yiddish Theater and Queer Theater,

    Henry James, Charles Ludlam, Ethyl Eichelberger

    Michael Moon

    You Go, Figure; or, The Rape of a Trope in the “Prioress’s Tale”

    Jacob Press

    Dickens’s Queer “Jew” and Anglo-Christian Identity Politics:

    The Contradictions of Victorian Family Values

    David A. H. Hirsch

    Coming Out of the Jewish Closet with Marcel Proust

    Jonathan Freedman

    Queer Margins: Cocteau,
    La Belle et la bête

    and the Jewish Differend

    Daniel Fischlin

    Reflections on Germany

    Judith Butler





    Books, especially coedited volumes such as this, are works of passionate col- laboration. In addition to the named contributors to this volume, there are thus other names to name. At Columbia University Press, Jennifer Crewe, Ann Miller, and Susan Pensak were unwavering in their support and patience. Lil- lian Faderman and Larry Gross early on signaled their confidence in this vol- ume by making us part of “Between Men ~ Between Women.” Sarita Rainey turned a fine eye on the index, providing crucial assistance at the eleventh hour. We are honored to have Deborah Kass’s
    4 Barbras (The Jewish Jackie Series)
    grace this book’s cover. This volume’s intellectual pulse has been quick- ened by the path-clearing work of so many in Jewish studies and Jewish fem- inist studies as well as in lesbian and gay studies and queer theory. We cannot begin to name, never mind adequately thank, them all, but some particular shout-outs to Jonathan Boyarin, Michael Bronski, Carolyn Dinshaw, Leslie Fiedler, Diana Fuss, Sander Gilman, David M. Halperin, Laura Levitt, and Miriam Peskowitz. Finally, we must acknowledge the friendship and support of some others who have made this volume possible: Carlin Barton, Chava Boyarin, Virgina Burrus, Elizabeth A. Castelli, Aden Evens, Lila Itzkovitz, Ivan Kreilkamp, Natasha Lifton, John Plotz, Linda Schlossberg, Susan Shapiro, and Dina Stein.


    Strange Bedfellows: An Introduction


    The essays in this volume explore the relays between Jewishness and queer- ness, between homophobia and antisemitism, and between queer theory and theorizations of Jewishness. The volume is not so much interested in reveal- ing—outing?—“queer Jews” as it is in exploring the complex of social arrangements and processes through which modern Jewish and homosexual identities emerged as traces of each other.
    Queer Theory and the Jewish Ques- tion
    thus enacts a change in object from uncovering the hidden histories of homosexuals who were also Jewish or Jews who were also homosexual to an- alyzing the rhetorical and theoretical connections that tie together the con- stellations “Jew” and “homosexual.” While there are no simple equations be- tween Jewish and queer identities, Jewishness and queerness yet utilize and are bound up with one another in particularly resonant ways. This crossover also extends to the modern discourses of antisemitism and homophobia, with stereotypes of the Jew frequently underwriting pop cultural and scientific no- tions of the homosexual. And vice versa.

    To bring the matter to a sharper point: there may just be something queer about the Jew . . . and something, well, racy about the homosexual. Among other things, this means that the circuit jew-queer is not only theoretical but has had—and still has—profound implications for the ways in which Jewish and queer bodies are lived. (Certainly, the interconnections have had impli- cations for how Jewish and queer bodies have died.)

    The popular notion that Jews embodied non-normative sexual and gen- der categories is long-standing. Recent work in Jewish cultural studies by Jay Geller (“Paleontological”), Sander Gilman (
    Freud, Race, and Gender
    ), and others documents attributions of “softness” to Jewish men predating the nine- teenth and twentieth centuries, the historical period addressed by most of the essays in this volume. Moreover, in his
    Nationalism and Sexuality

    Mosse offered an in-depth exploration of the intertwined discourses of mas- culinity, citizenship, and nationalism in post-Enlightenment Europe (espe- cially in Germany) as well as the ways that Jews (especially but not only Jew- ish men) were powerfully associated with the abjected homosexual in these discourses.

    Provocatively, these stereotypes of Jewish “gender trouble” were not al- ways rejected by Jews themselves. Indeed, in his 1997 study
    Unheroic Con- duct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man
    Daniel Boyarin identifies traces of a “soft” Jewish masculinity in the Talmud and the succeeding culture of rabbinic Judaism. Boyarin proceeds to make a claim for the effeminization of Jewish masculinity as a sort of oppositional (and incip- iently postcolonial) discourse. For Jews living under the Roman Empire, he suggests, the softness of rabbinic masculinity with its focus on study and texts might have offered a rallying point for Jewish self-affirmation over and against a “hard,” martial Roman-ness. Of course, as Boyarin also makes clear, this val- orization of male effeminacy could go hand in hand with the devaluation of women. That is, the cultural value rabbinic Judaism placed on soft masculin- ity was in no way a rebuff of patriarchy and male privilege. Additionally, later intra-Jewish developments—Herzl’s Zionism, for example, with its idealized “muscle Jew”—suggest that over time the positive valence Jewish gender dif- ference may have held for some Jews would become increasingly difficult to sustain.

    Certainly, by the mid-nineteenth century antisemitic stereotypes of a weak and passive Jewish masculinity were given dangerous new direction when they were grafted onto emerging discourses of race and sexuality. New scientific disciplines helped to produce and codify social and moral distinc- tions between groups by identifying “essential” markers of difference and grounding them in nature (Geller, “(G)nos(e)ology”). This biologization of difference can be seen in the invention or, perhaps more accurately,
    inven- tion of Jewish difference as a matter of race. It was as if Jewish gender and sex- ual life, both real and imagined, provided the key to unlocking Jewish racial difference. Long-standing stereotypes of Jewish gender difference were thus translated into signs of racial difference, operating as a kind of visible proof text. So, for example, the alleged failure of the male Jew to embody “proper” masculinity became the indelible evidence of the racial difference of all Jews. Within the terms of this transcription, the male Jew stands in for all Jews:

    it is the Jewish male’s difference from “normal” masculinity that signs the dif- ference of Jews as a group from, variously, Europeans, Aryans, Christians. As Ann Pellegrini has noted elsewhere, within the terms of the homology in which Jew = woman all Jews are womanly but no women are Jews (
    Performance Anx-

    ). We will come back to this point. For now we want to note that in this historical period (and even well after) antisemitic representations of Jewish dif- ference, as well as Jewish responses to these depictions, were, in essence, argu- ing over norms of manliness. Thus, although the two “sides” disagreed—and profoundly—as to whether or not Jews fulfilled these norms, it yet seems sig- nificant that both antisemitism and those discourses counter to it (e.g.,
    Wis- senschaft des Judentums
    (the science of Judaism), Zionism, and even much con- temporary Jewish studies) could agree on at least this point: androcentrism.

    If gender provided a ready interpretive grid through which nineteenth- century science could detect and interpret the racial difference of the Jew, the masculine/feminine axis was also being fit to another emerging taxonomy of difference: the modern discourse of sexuality with its “specification” and “so- lidification” of individuals—to use Foucault’s terminology (
    History of Sexual- ity
    , 42–44)—into distinct sexual personages, such as “the homosexual” or “the female sexual invert.” The nineteenth century, then, witnessed not just the emergence of the modern Jew but the emergence also of the modern homo- sexual. This is more than historical coincidence, as this volume aims to show. It has become almost a commonplace, after Foucault, to assert that sexu- ality is socially constructed. But what does this claim mean? The very notion that humans can be distinguished and categorized—as if they belong to sep- arate sexual species—on the basis of whom and how they characteristically de- sire is a fundamentally novel and culture-bound historical development. Ad- ditionally, as Foucault and others have argued, this notion is by and large a product of the nineteenth century (Davidson; D’Emilio; Duggan; Foucault). Some historians of British sexual life have argued that modern homosexual identity and cultural forms can be found a century earlier, in eighteenth- century “Molly Houses,” for example (Bray; Trumbach). But whether we set down the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries as the birth dates of modern ho- mosexuality, our point remains the same. Modern categories of sexual dis- tinction, most prominently the homo/heterosexual distinction, are just that:

    modern inventions, social artifacts, not natural givens.

BOOK: Queer Theory and the Jewish Question
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