135 Nicholson Hall
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Erich Auerbach's intellectual thought during his exile in Istanbul between 1936 and 1947 highly reflects the ambiguous role of German Jews in the Turkish Republic under Ataturk's reform agenda. Invited to Turkey after 1933 in order to provide the knowledge background for the nation's desired Europeanization, German-Jewish scholars were simultaneously regarded as politically weak subjects who do not threat Turkey's efforts towards political independence. Auerbach, who focuses his main works on the cultural transformation of Judeo-Christian ideas, relates his theoretical findings to his experiences of nationalism and anti-Semitism in Turkey in private letters. Whereas Auerbach's emphasis on the role of Judaism for the secular-humanistic tradition has to be understood as a defense of European humanism vis-à-vis its destruction in fascist Europe, his letter correspondence indicates a cultural skepticism nourished by analogies between Turkey's radical Westernization and fascist ideology. Taking up scholarship in the field of German-Turkish intellectual history and German-Jewish Studies, this presentation will examine Turkey as Auerbach's exile and its role for his complex notion of Jewishness in world history.