In my last post, I touched on the problems associated with uncritically adopting and reinforcing common narratives of victimhood. This issue, as it turns out, is the topic of a Toronto MA student’s thesis on Jewish white privilege and exploitation of Holocaust victimhood (National Post article, with interesting commentary here). Here’s the abstract from the thesis:
This paper focuses on issues of Jewish identity, whiteness and victimhood within hegemonic Holocaust education. I argue that today, Jewish people of European descent enjoy white privilege and are among the most socio-economically advantaged groups in the West. Despite this privilege, the organized Jewish community makes claims about Jewish victimhood that are widely accepted within that community and within popular discourse in the West. I propose that these claims to victimhood are no longer based in a reality of oppression, but continue to be propagated because a victimized Jewish identity can produce certain effects that are beneficial to the organized Jewish community and the Israeli nation-state. I focus on two related Holocaust education projects – the March of the Living and the March of Remembrance and Hope – to show how Jewish victimhood is instrumentalized in ways that obscure Jewish privilege, deny Jewish racism and promote the interests of the Israeli nation-state.
Perhaps a bit boldly worded, but to my mind this seems to be a worthy project, if only to open up critical debates concerning narratives of victimhood and the instrumentalization of historical education.
P.S. What’s the deal with MPP Steve Clark condemning the thesis? Who in the legislature is reading all the latest theses!?