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Dialectic of Equality.

Achim von Arnim's anti-Jewish Speech in Context

In German language

In the early summer of 1811, Achim von Arnim gave a speech in Berlin before the German Tischgesellschaft entitled “Über die Kennzeichen des Judentums”. In it, he addressed the question of whether and how Jews could be recognized in everyday life, making use of various anti-Jewish topoi. In a conversation with Theresa Eisele, a fellow of the Kulturstiftung Schloss Wiepersdorf, historian Stefan Hofmann discusses Arnim's speech as a paradigmatic text of hostility towards Jews in the early 19th century.

Starting from the motifs and contexts of the speech, a panorama of anti-Jewish thought in the modern era will be unfolded and the question will be asked how Jewish artists in particular reacted to it. In this way, the discussion addresses central themes that have not lost any of their relevance in the present day. It asks, for example, how a society designs itself in the face of the promise of bourgeois equality: Is foreignness and difference possible in modernity and under what conditions? What possibilities of belonging exist and what answers did Jewish artists find to their exclusion?

Stefan Hofmann is a historian and research associate in the project "European Traditions - Encyclopedia of Jewish Cultures" of the Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig. He oversees the series "Library of Jewish History and Culture" and "Archive of Jewish History and Culture". From 2012 to 2017 he was editor of the "Encyclopedia of Jewish History and Culture" (7 vols., 2011-2017). His dissertation focuses on the theatrical dimensions of Jewish acculturation in the long 19th century in Germany (“Of Masks and Mimicry: Jewish Acculturation on German Stages 1815-1914)”. He recently published two essays on the actress Marie Barkany, which can be read online in German and English.

Theresa Eisele works as a theater scholar in Vienna and Berlin. She was a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Theater Studies at the FU Berlin (2020/21) and previously worked at the University of Vienna and the Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture. In the summer of 2021, she is a fellow of the Kulturstiftung Schloss Wiepersdorf. She researches Jewish theater history in Vienna around 1900 and concepts of the theatrical in cultural formations. In her book, she explores a visual history of the "Jewish" in Vienna: “Scenes of Viennese Modernism. Drei Artefakte und ihre Vorstellungswelten des Jüdischen“, Göttingen 2021 (toldot. Essays on Jewish History and Culture 14, ed. by Yfaat Weiss).

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