In 1873, the German scientist Rudolf Virchow declared in Parliament that liberals were locked in a Kulturkampf
, a "culture war" with the forces of Catholicism, which he viewed as the chief hindrance to progress and modernity. Over the past two decades, historians have appropriated the term "culture war," liberated it from its German origin and applied it as a generic expression for secular-catholic conflicts across nineteenth-century Europe. Intellectual and cultural historians have discovered in anti-catholicism a discourse and practice through which liberal ideas of subjectivity, sociability, and nation were constructed. Catholicism was, in short, the Other of a modernity understood to be rational, scientific and possibly Protestant.
But what of those other religious Others of European modernity -- the Jews? How did Jews relate to, contribute to, or perhaps oppose liberal anti-catholicism? What light do the polemics of Jewish anticlericals throw on one of the key topics of contemporary political philosophy, namely the theory of secularism? These are the questions explored in The Modernity of Others: Jewish Anti-Catholicism in Germany and France
(Stanford University Press 2014), an ambitious work that takes the reader from the late Enlightenment to the twentieth century and across many disciplinary boundaries. Join us in this interview with the author, Ari Joskowicz
, assistant professor of Jewish Studies and European Studies at Vanderbilt University.