Review of "Sartre, Jews, and the Other: Rethinking Antisemitism, Race, and Gender"

April 10, 2022

A new review of the book Sartre, Jews, and the Other: Rethinking Antisemitism, Race, and Gender, edited by Manuela Consonni and Vivian Liska, was published by Elad Lapidot in the journal, Judaica: Neue digitale Folge. The book was published in the The Vidal Sassoon Studies in Antisemitism, Racism, and Prejudice series.


In their Introduction, Manuela Consonni and Vivian Liska mention two main reasons for assembling an impressive interdisciplinary and international panel of 17 scholars to reflect on Jean-Paul Sartre’s book/essay, Réflexions sur la question juive, “Reflections on the Jewish Question”, written in 1944, published in 1946, and translated into English in 1948 as Anti-Semite and Jew. The first reason is to pay tribute to the book as one of the first publications by a European author after the Holocaust to categorically denounce anti-Semitism. As Renée Poznanski shows in her chapter, Emmanuel Mounier and Sartre were the only intellectuals who “broke the silence” that prevailed in France immediately after WWII concerning the fate of the Jews.

The second, more specific reason is that in publically denouncing anti-Semitism, Sartre’s intervention was not purely negative, not merely anti-anti-Semitic, but also offered a positive, constructive perspective: namely, Consonni and Liska write, on how to “conceptualize Jewish existence in a new way” (1). It is Sartre’s new way of countering anti-Semitism by re-conceptualizing Jewish existence that stands at the center of this volume. The basic argument of Sartre, Jews, and the Other is that Sartre’s novel strategy of dealing with the Jewish Question has offered and in fact become a foundational paradigm in dealing with the question of otherness in contemporary theory. It is this paradigm that still today, almost eight decades after its initial formulation, would facilitate the enterprise suggested in the volume’s subtitle: “Rethinking Antisemitism, Race, and Gender”.

The volume convincingly demonstrates the editors’ claim by revealing the wide, direct and indirect, reception of Sartre’s essay. With respect to race, Jonathan Judaken tells us how “Sartre’s existentialist multi-directional anti-racism remains a model for confronting the global racisms of the present. Beginning with Anti-Semite and Jew, Sartre laid out a set of theorems that remain powerful to thinking about Judeophobia and Negrophobia and Islamophobia today” (129). Leonardo Senkman portrays the reception of Sartre’s book in Argentina and Brazil, where the first Portuguese edition of 1949 was entitled Reflexões sobre o racismo (“Reflections on Racism”) and included both “Reflections on the Jewish Question” and “Black Orpheus,” Sartre’s famous 1948 introduction to a poetry anthology edited by Léopold Sedar Senghor, the Senegalese poet, politician and theoretician of Négritude.

For the Full review please read here.