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James Baldwin and the Politics of Holocaust Exceptionalism

Friday, Jun 10, 2022, 5:15 PM

Ben Ratskoff

James Baldwin and the Politics of Holocaust Exceptionalism

Recent debates about contemporary racism and national memorial cultures, instigated in part by global movements against anti-Black policing, have put pressure on both the historiographic assertion of the Holocaust’s fundamental difference from other forms of racial violence and the ritualization of Holocaust remembrance. James Baldwin’s protracted and ambivalent engagement with the role of the Holocaust in postwar anti-racist politics, and especially in the struggle against anti-Black racism in the United States, clarifies how Holocaust history and memory can, in their dominant and institutionalized forms, work to neuter anti-racist militancy and maintain the status quo.

Ben Ratskoff is visiting assistant professor in the Louchheim School of Judaic Studies at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem and the University of Southern California. He completed his dissertation, Waltzing with Hitler: Black Writers, the Third Reich, and Demonic Grounds of Comparison, 1936-1940 in June 2021. His writing has appeared in Jewish Studies Quarterly as well as the Los Angeles Review of Books, Truthout and Jewish Currents.

The event will be held in English