A Nation without Borders?: Modern European Emancipation as Negation of Galut
AbstractThis is the final version of the article. It first appeared from Purdue University Press via http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/sho.2016.0026
This essay examines the concept of shelilat hagalut (negation of exile/Diaspora) and argues that in many ways, the political and structural changes entailed in the granting of citizenship to Jews in modern Western nation-states can be viewed as already constituting a negation of galut well before the emergence of Zionism. Through comparison to traditional rabbinic conceptions of Jewish communal-national status, we will see that the modern insistence upon national identification with a geographically bounded nation-state constituted a direct undermining of previous theopolitical conceptions of Israel as a geographically unbounded “nation in exile.” In light of this reframing, the usage in contemporary discourse of “center” and “Diaspora” is shown largely to constitute a false binary that generates unproductive and interminable dispute between “diasporists” and classical Zionist “centralists.” By contrast, clarifying the ways in which ideologies of European emancipation and of Zionism have both been complicit in negating galut can aid in producing better understandings of the relation between past and present Jewish culture and conceptuality, and in enabling more fruitful intellectual efforts to engage presently unresolved conflicts in the spheres of Jewish politics, culture, and identity.