Antisemitism, Holocaust, Colonialism, Gender: Connecting the Conversations

May 6, 2022

The OSUN Network Collaborative Course "Antisemitism, Holocaust, Colonialism, Gender: Connecting the Conversations" sought to investigate a complex set of critical linkages and points of intersection between four distinct, but overlapping, areas of inquiry: antisemitism, the holocaust, colonialism, and gender. It brought together faculty and students from five institutions to engage in conversation with one another. These institutions were CEU in Vienna, Birkbeck University of London, Bard College in New York, SOAS University of London, and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Each of the different fields constitutes a lens through which to examine prejudice, discrimination, race and hate in their historical and contemporary manifestations. Antisemitism and the Holocaust, however, are typically studied separately from the racism rooted in colonial legacies and gender is often sidelined in these discussions. Consequently, this course has sought to reframe these inquiries, setting them side-by-side rather than in opposition to each other and probing new connections in light of a diverse range of national and regional contexts.

Central to the course was the notion of Multidirectional Memory developed by Michael Rothberg, which provided a theoretical framework through which to rethink the points of convergence between these topics in powerful and fascinating ways. Some of the key questions considered by this course included: how does antisemitism intersect with issues of racism? How do the Holocaust and the Nakba connect? What is hate and how does it operate? In what ways may European phenomena be associated with events in Africa? How are these phenomena interfused by issues of gender? Multidirectionality ultimately emerged as a new critical approach to examining both memory and history, as well as analysing cultures of hate and oppression.

During the joint sessions, students gained a unique opportunity to engage with different subject specialists and to participate in group work and class discussions with a diverse peer group. Classes were co-taught by the faculty, including a bridging section aimed at connecting the conversations that emerged each week. These sessions were primarily focused on facilitating collaboration between students, who worked together to answer questions and prepare short presentations.

This course was a timely initiative, soberly probing questions of justice, equity, and remembrance. It was conceived in light of a pressing need for educational work to reflect upon growing populist political tendencies that seek to alter and contest Holocaust memory, as well as the ways in which the legacies of colonialism have left their imprint on public memory, cultural prejudice, racism, and anti-migrant sentiment in a notionally postcolonial world. The war in Ukraine began midway through the semester, underscoring the real-world implications of these issues and highlighting the importance of having such a course.

In their final reflections, students reported an overwhelmingly positive experience. Many commended the course’s ability to shed new light on the different areas of inquiry, especially considering that many of the students were already well acquainted with these topics. They also noted how the course had prompted fresh and illuminating discoveries that were both challenging and highly valuable.

If you would like to hear more reflections from faculty and students or to get more information on the OSUN Collaborative Network Course on Antisemitism, Holocaust, Colonialism, Gender, please click here for the podcast.