Skip to main content

Lecture: Thinking in a Polarized World: On Intellectual Freedom of Movement

The great moral narratives of cruelty confront us with profound political consequences. The Western narrative centers on the crimes of totalitarianism, such as the Holocaust and the gulags. For the commemoration of the Holocaust, Israel and the Jewish people are the focus of attention. Keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust casts Israel in the role of guaranteeing the safety of the Jewish people. Beyond the Atlantic world, these memories play a less central role. Here, the cruelties of the West against the non-Western world are in the spotlight. Not the Holocaust, but colonialism and imperialism are at the center of attention.

PORTRAIT Natan Sznaider
PORTRAIT Natan Sznaider Allegra Mercedes Pirker

According to this narrative, Israel is seen as the handmaiden of the West as well as a society of settlers, subjugating the indigenous population. These two moral narratives cannot always be distinguished clearly; in historiography and political rapprochements, they are often linked, and especially in the Middle East conflict, they overlap. The colonialist narrative here competes with the Holocaust narrative. The comparison of pain and victims is a key element. Based on Natan Sznaider’s book Fluchtpunkte der Erinnerung, this evening’s discussion will also examine how to argue productively.

Natan Sznaider is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the Academic College of Tel Aviv. He specializes in sociological theory, globalization, and the culture of memory. Born in Mannheim, he emigrated to Israel, where he began his studies. He received his doctorate in the U.S. with a thesis on the sociology of compassion and has held several guest professorships in Germany. His most recent publications include Jewish Memory and the Cosmopolitan Order (Cambridge 2011), Memory and Forgetting in the Post-Holocaust Era (Routledge 2016, with Alejandro Baer), Gesellschaften in Israel: Eine Einführung in zehn Bildern (Suhrkamp 2017), and Fluchtpunkte der Erinnerung: Über die Gegenwart von Holocaust und Kolonialismus (Hanser 2022). He is also co-editor (with Christian Heilbronn and Doron Rabinovici) of Neuer Antisemitismus? Fortsetzung einer globalen Debatte (Suhrkamp 2019). With a musical performance by Ibrahim Alshaikh (clarinet).

Registration is required; admission is free

(Program in German)
Additional information
Participating artists
Prof. Dr. Jacob Eder
Natan Sznaider
Ibrahim Alshaikh
Pierre Boulez Saal - Mozart Auditorium