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Title page for ETD etd-03252012-134438


Type of Document Dissertation
Author Segroves, Diane M.
URN etd-03252012-134438
Title Racializing Jewish Difference: Wilhelm Bousset, the History of Religion(s), and the Discourse of Christian Origins
Degree PhD
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Dr. Jay Geller Committee Chair
Dr. Amy-Jill Levine Committee Member
Dr. Arlene Tuchman Committee Member
Dr. Ted Smith Committee Member
Keywords
  • anti-Judaism
  • Religionsgeschichtliche Schule
  • comparative religion
Date of Defense 2011-10-21
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
This dissertation seeks to connect the notions of race and religion to the scholarly construction of Judaism and Jewishness (Judentum) by analyzing the work of nineteenth–century German Protestant biblical scholar Wilhelm Bousset. A key figure in the ‘history of religion’ school that sought to situate the study of Christian origins as objective scholarship, Bousset was instrumental in producing Spätjudentum as the normative term for what is now referred to as Second Temple Judaism in a way that both maintained the assumed theological superiority of Christianity and rendered Judaism a dead end within the history of religion. Moreover, the dissertation argues that the phenomenological notion of religion that grounds Bousset’s construction of Spätjudentum reflects the primary binary of spirit/matter that is used to construct and maintain hierarchical difference, allowing the traditional theological binary of Christian/Jew to be read as a racialized German/Jew binary. Bousset is first situated within the intersecting discourses of Western colonialism and comparative religion (Religionswissenschaft), German völkisch ideology and anti-semitism, and traditional Christian supersessionism. The dissertation then examines how his representation of Spätjudentum/Judentum within an evolutionary framework of the history of religion draws upon the tropes of development and degeneration that are also embedded within scientific racial theory in order to construct and maintain Judentum as always other. By comparing Bousset’s specific construction of Spätjudentum/Judentum to that of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the prophet of anti-semitism at the turn of the twentieth century, the dissertation demonstrates how Bousset reflects, and thus legitimates, the racialized construction of Judentum within anti-semitic discourse. The final chapter situates Bousset’s construction of Judentum within orientalist scholarship by considering how Bousset creates, fills, and controls the space of Spätjudentum, effectively colonizing Judentum as an object of study within the academy. Noting the implications for the contemporary study of Christian origins, the study concludes by emphasizing the need for further research on how Judaism has functioned within the academic study of religion.

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