The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism (SICSA) was established in 1982 as an interdisciplinary research center dedicated to an independent, non-political and critical approach to understanding the phenomenon of antisemitism. In more recent years, it has sought to leverage its proven expertise in order to create a unique space within academia for vibrant, intellectual discourse on antisemitism as a historical, political, and social issue — both in the past and the present — that affects human society, and Jews in particular. Accordingly, a priority of SICSA is to actively nurture and showcase the work of graduate students and postdoctoral candidates who want to pursue academic careers in antisemitism studies, while also providing a public forum where the many issues surrounding antisemitism can be aired and discussed in an intellectually intensive manner.
The Center is primarily interested in providing a high-level platform within academia for understanding the historical and contemporary contexts of antisemitic prejudice, its occurrences, and its mechanisms, including comparative perspectives on other forms of discrimination and racism. Research at SICSA intentionally covers a broad spread of disciplines: history, political science, psychology, sociology, law, economics, literature, and the arts. This interdisciplinary approach means that the Center is able to act as both a material and intellectual resource for researchers, students, and educators.
SICSA activities encompass research projects, doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships, a wide range of publications (books, monographs on current topics, a research journal, and annotated bibliography), a computerized bibliographic project, conferences, symposia, monthly seminars, and lectures. Its Analysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism (ACTA) unit conducts research on worldwide trends, focusing focus on changes in local, national and regional areas and their impact on public opinion, the arts, the mass media, and ideological and political movements.
The founding director of SISCA was historian Prof. Yehuda Bauer, a renowned authority on the subjects of the Holocaust and antisemitism, and a key figure in the establishment and development of Holocaust Studies. Prof. Bauer is a member of the Center’s Academic Committee. The late Prof. Robert Wistrich, a leading scholar and prolific author who shaped much of the current understanding of antisemitism, headed SICSA from 2002 until 2015. Under his direction, the Center explored avenues of research such as the phenomenon of Left-wing political antisemitism and the de-legitimization of Israel and Zionism. Today, the Center is headed by Prof. Manuela Consonni, who is an expert in the field of post-Holocaust political, intellectual, social and literary discourse as these relate to topics of the identity, prejudice and “otherness” of the Jews in Europe.