Reforming identities: Jews’ experience of German colonial expansion

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This essay investigates German Jews’ conceptualization of colonialism, and its consequent meanings regarding their identity formation in the years between 1884 and 1919. The discussion tackles the intersections and disjunctions of identities among German Jews of various orientations, as inspired by the colonial venture and within globalization process. The analysis reveals the interplay between the endorsement of colonialism by Jews as part of their German national identification, and the impact of growing antisemitism and racial attitudes nourished by the encounter with other ‘inferior races’ in the colonies. It explores the ideological parallels that Jews perceived between German and European colonization, and the Zionist settlement in Palestine. The article also demonstrates how Jews’ increasing exposure–real or imagined–to different places and cultures as part of the colonial experience stirred ideas of Jewish racial superiority and distinctive nationalism, alongside transnational perspectives that encouraged a broader sense of Jewish solidarity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-269
Number of pages22
JournalPostcolonial Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Israel Science Foundation [grant number 1049/17].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Institute of Postcolonial Studies.


  • Germany
  • Jews
  • colonialism
  • identity
  • nationalism


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