On Keeping the Hyphen in Anti-Semitism (In Conversation with Emily Filler)

Arguments out there by academic colleagues and also by leftwing (anti-Zionist) activists say that “we” should take the hyphen out of Anti-Semitism. My colleague Emily Filler wrote in response to a query that “people have argued that removing the hyphen further deemphasizes the substance of the proper noun.” But she writes  that she likes the hyphen “just for the sense of alterity it brings to the word – to me, it looks weird enough as one word for it to trigger and then reject the racialist assumption.” To this I would add that the allergy to “substance” and other thing-like mutations is already old hat academic social construction of reality theory. According to this theory, once you identify a discursive formation as “constructed,” you can then make it disappear since you have now reduced it to being merely “arbitrary,” a matter of false consciousness.
But artifice is never arbitrary. As per Filler, we should actually keep the hyphen because it catches and sustains the idea or sense of a thing-like mutation (not as a natural essence, but as a viral artifact). For instance, the image on this mailer, about which you can read here,  sent out by Republican state Senate candidate Ed Charamut in Connecticut in which his Democratic opponent, Matthew Lesser, who is Jewish, is represented as a money-grubbing official. This image is not “antisemitic.” Lurid and bizarre in its thing-like manifestation, It’s anti-Semitic. For a more critical take on the hyphen, see this by Jonathan Judaken writing in the American Historical Review (123:4, Oct. 2018), which you can see here.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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