From Nehemia Americanus to Indianized Jews. Pro- and anti-Judaic rhetoric in seventeenth-century New England

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Abstract

This article explores the entangled history of transnational race discourses in the colonialism of early puritan settlers in new england. Retracing the complexity of discursive intersections between proto-racist, anti-judaic and pro-judaic rhetoric within puritan minority narratives, it asks how these discourses changed when theological concepts around self and other, old and new israel, were translated from europe to the north american colonies. The settlers’ millenarian theology forged an eschatological link between the american wilderness and the religious and political heterotopia of a new jerusalem; cotton mather's magnalia christi americana (1702), for example, idealized the figure of the colonial founding father as an american nehemiah or moses. In the settlers’ vision, the puritans stood in competition with old israel, aiming to assume its role and basing their apocalyptic interpretations of the flight from europe on its exodus. At the same time, they transferred images of europe's “internal colonized”—the jews—to the indigenous population. In the frontier zone of colonial contact, the puritans combined older anti-judaic with their own millenarian pro-judaic ideas in new ways, a process that converged in the notion that the “indians” were descendants of the 10 lost tribes of israel and their religion was similar to that of the biblical israelites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-207
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
Volume15
Issue number2
Early online date24 Feb 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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