The possibility of a new critical language from the sources of Jewish negative theology

Ilan Gur-Ze'ev, Jonathan Boyarin

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A new critical language is possible yet its becoming is not guaranteed. Its roots and sources should be diverse, universal and Diasporic. Jewish negative theology is ultimately Diasporic and could become one of its edifying sources. Diaspora is not only an intellectual state, not necessarily collective but communal. One of the things that makes the notion most vital is the possibility and the cultural technology of generational continuity in the absence of a majority. It is true that there is always a danger of sentimentalism. A great deal of post-Enlightenment terror, both in the sense of individual terror, and eventually organized violence, has to do with the inability of an isolated organism that is aware of its own mortality to achieve some kind of equanimity with the fact of its own mortality. One of the key driving forces of the symbolic aspects of almost all human cultures until now has been to strengthen a real, not just a sentimental force, in structuring identificatory practices such that the organism does not, in the first instance, understand existence as starting with its birth and ending with its death, but almost in the first instance understands existence as being a continuity and a cycle, inflected by its own mortality. This mortality and the endurance of Life in face of the prospects of worthy life is the gate for a new understanding of transcendence, critique and emancipation. Today the most vital power of enriching the critical language is the new anti-Semitism. The prospects of an alternative revitalization of the critical language and the possibility of a language that challenges the exile of holiness and transcends critique is here addressed in light of the Jewish tradition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-397
Number of pages17
JournalPolicy Futures in Education
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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