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Arendt’s ‘Conscious Pariah’ and the Ambiguous Figure of the Subaltern

Ray, Larry J., Diemling, Maria (2016) Arendt’s ‘Conscious Pariah’ and the Ambiguous Figure of the Subaltern. European Journal of Social Theory, 19 (4). ISSN 1368-4310. E-ISSN 1461-7137. (doi:10.1177/1368431016628261)


Hannah Arendt’s Jewish writings were central to her thinking about the human condition and engaged with dialectics of modernity, universalism and identity. Her concept of the ‘conscious pariah’ attempted both to define a role for the public intellectual and understand the relationship between Jews and modernity. Controversially she accused Jews of lack resistance to the Nazis and argued that their victimization resulted from apolitical ‘worldlessness’. We argue that although Arendt’s analysis was original and challenging, her characterization of Jewish history as one of ‘powerlessness’ is exaggerated but, more importantly, her underdeveloped concept of ‘the social’ is insensitive to the complex modalities of resistance and consciousness among subaltern Jewish communities. Further, her lack of interest in religious observance obscures the importance of Judaism as a resource for resistance. This is illustrated by ‘hidden transcripts’ of Jewish resistance from the early modern period.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/1368431016628261
Uncontrolled keywords: Arendt, conscious pariah, Judaism, powerlessness, resistance
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BM Judaism
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research > Sociology
Depositing User: Larry Ray
Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2016 14:40 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 16:50 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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