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When, How, and Why did Jews Become a 'Minority'? Remapping Difference in Central Europe, 1815-1919

Friday, September 14, 2018,
  • Location: Buttrick Hall • 390 24th Ave S • Nashville, TN 37240
  • Room: 212

A talk by Dr. Till van Rahden, Canada Research Chair in German and European Studies at the Université de Montréal.


The conceptual couple of majority/minority is viewed as a harmless way of identifying an arithmetic relationship. The idea of a dichotomy between majority and (Jewish) minority as a short hand to describe relations between ethnic or religious groups, however, is recent. In fact, as the lecture will demonstrate, it did not exist before 1919 when in the wake of World War I the idea of democracy and the idea of the homogeneous nation-state triumphed simultaneously. Prior to 1919, languages of diversity invoked embedded concepts that referred to specific constellations of difference, such as colony or community, churches, nations, races, or tribes. The opposition of majority and minority introduced a level of abstraction into struggles over recognition. “Minority rights” for Jews and others became a miracle cure in such conflicts and seemed to offer a universal formula promising an efficacious remedy.