Christine Achinger will be giving one of the Plenary Lectures at the 14th Critical Theory Conference in Rome, 18-16 May 2022
At a time when the theoretical engagement with, and political struggles against, racism, antisemitism, sexism, homo-and transphobia are increasingly hampered by deep identity-political divisions and antagonisms between different scholarly and political camps, it seems particularly important to highlight the interconnectedness of such forms of discrimination without denying their specificity. My paper attempts to approach the question which theoretical frameworks might help us understand the complex interrelations between constructions of Jewishness, race, nation and gender without downplaying their differences in content and discursive function, but also without losing their shared social origins out of sight. With reference to case studies from German and Austrian culture in the ‘long 19th century’, I seek to illustrate that such constructions of different ‘others’ can be understood as historically changing responses to the challenges generated by the rise of capitalist modernity. In the light of these findings, my paper goes on to discuss the respective merits of intersectional approaches as opposed to approaches in the tradition of Critical Theory/the Frankfurt school in analysing such common social origins, and attempts to put those two traditions into a critical dialogue. I also engage with the related question how experiences of inequality and exclusion can inform progressive political practice without reifying the identities they produce in essentialist and exclusionary forms of identity politics.