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Series: Key Words in Jewish Studies
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Jew.The word possesses an uncanny power to provoke and unsettle.
For millennia, Jew has signified the consummate Other, a persistent
fly in the ointment of Western civilization's grand narratives and
cultural projects. Only very recently, however, has Jew been
reclaimed as a term of self-identification and pride. With these
insights as a point of departure, this book offers a wide-ranging
exploration of the key word Jew - a term that lies not only at the
heart of Jewish experience, but indeed at the core of Western
civilization. Examining scholarly debates about the origins and
early meanings of Jew, Cynthia M. Baker interrogates categories
like ethnicity, race, and religion that inevitably feature in
attempts to define the word. Tracing the term's evolution, she also
illuminates its many contradictions, revealing how Jew has served
as a marker of materialism and intellectualism, socialism and
capitalism, worldly cosmopolitanism and clannish parochialism,
chosen status, and accursed stigma. Baker proceeds to explore the
complex challenges that attend the modern appropriation of Jew as a
term of self-identification, with forays into Yiddish language and
culture, as well as meditations on Jew-as-identity by contemporary
public intellectuals. Finally, by tracing the phrase new Jews
through a range of contexts - including the early Zionist movement,
current debates about Muslim immigration to Europe, and recent
sociological studies in the United States - the book provides a
glimpse of what the word Jew is coming to mean in an era of
Internet cultures, genetic sequencing, precarious nationalisms, and
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