Jonathan Judaken

Jonathan Judaken

Professor of History
Gloria M. Goldstein Professor of Jewish History & Thought
PHD, University of California-Irvine
MA, University of California-Irvine
BA, University of California-San Diego

contact info:

office hours:

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays
    11:30 AM - 12:00 PM and 4:30 PM - 5:00 PM
    2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Professor Judaken’s research focuses on representations of Jews and Judaism, race and racism, existentialism, and post-Holocaust French Jewish thought.

His first book, Jean-Paul Sartre and the Jewish Question: Anti-antisemitism and the Politics of the French Intellectual (University of Nebraska Press, "Texts and Contexts" series, 2006) examines the figure of ′the Jew′ in Sartre′s work. This is done to not only re-assess Sartre′s oeuvre, but the role of the intellectual in France, and the politics and ethics of existentialism.

He followed this up with an edited collection entitled Race After Sartre: Antiracism, Africana Existentialism, Postcolonialism (SUNY Press, “Philosophy and Race” series, 2008) that examines Sartre′s influence on critical race theory, anticolonialism, and Africana thought.

This led to a more wide-ranging edited volume, Naming Race, Naming Racisms (Routledge, 2009), that focuses on key flashpoints and figures to explore how race and racism have been understood and articulated in the shifting historical contexts from the late-eighteenth century to the present. It closes with an interview he did with Cornel West about black intellectuals in America today.

He followed this up with a co-edited book with Robert Bernasconi, Situating Existentialism: Key Texts in Context (Columbia University Press, May 2012). Each chapter opens with a new interpretation of one of the major works of existentialism by leading intellectual historians, philosophers, literary critics, and religious studies scholars. The book historicizes the process of canonizing and systemizing a system of thought that was anti-systemic at its core. It provides a guide for undergraduates and graduate students wrestling anew with existentialism, while pushing scholars to rethink its borders and boundaries.

For the bicentennial celebration of Memphis, he co-edited a book with Karen Golightly titled Memphis: 200 Years Together (SSP 2019) that brings together the best local writers and scholars to cover the breadth and depth of Memphis history, politics, culture, business, music, food, religion, and art as does no other single work. It chronicles the triumphs and tragedies from the founding of Memphis to the present.

His most recent book, The Albert Memmi Reader (University of Nebraska Press, “France Overseas: Studies in Empire and Decolonization", 2020), was co-edited with Michael Lejman. It brings together Tunisian French Jewish writer Albert Memmi’s oeuvre into a single volume, including many previously untranslated articles, and opens with an Introduction Judaken wrote that gives an overview of Memmi’s work and his contemporary significance.

He also edited and introduced two important journal special issues, a roundtable in the American Historical Review on “Rethinking Anti-Semitism” (October 2018) and “Jews and Muslims in France Before and After Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher” in Jewish History (November 2018).

His latest monograph, Critical Theories of Anti-Semitism, will come out in Columbia University Press’ “New Directions in Critical Theory” series in March 2024. It offers a comparative history of major theories of Judeophobia in the work of Sartre, Hannah Arendt, members of the Frankfurt School, Talcott Parsons, Zygmunt Baumann, Jean-François Lyotard, and in the work of two extraordinary historians, Léon Poliakov, and George Mosse, while seeking to challenge the conventions and narratives within the field of anti-Semitism studies based on their work.

As a Senior Fulbright specialist, Judaken visited Israel in the summer of 2011 at the invitation of Haifa University and Tel Aviv University and South Africa in the summer of 2013 at the invitation of the University of Cape Town. He spent a year as scholar-in-residence at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2006-2007). He was a National Endowment for the Humanities summer institute fellow in 2019 for an intense immersion focused on “Privilege and Prejudice: Jewish History in the American South,” at College of Charleston, as he was at Harvard in summer 2000 focused on “War and Memory: Postwar Representations of the Occupation and World War II in French Literature, History and Film.”

A founding member of the International Consortium for Research on Racism and Antisemitism, Judaken serves as the U.S. Consulting Editor for Patterns of Prejudice, on the Editorial Board for Jewish Historical Studies, on the Associate Editorial Board for Critical Philosophy of Race, on the Advisory Board for H-Antisemitism, as Past President of the North American Sartre Society, and on the International Board of Scholars for Facing History and Ourselves.

His radio show, Counterpoint, aired monthly on WKNO-FM, NPR for the Mid-South, where he interviewed academics and intellectuals making significant contributions to the national conversation on topical issues for over seven years. Judaken has published journalistic and op-ed pieces in Ha’aretz, Inside Higher Ed, the Huffington Post, Tablet, Tikkun, and the Forward.