Jonathan Judaken | Spence L. Wilson Chair in Humanities
Office: 201 Buckman Hall | Phone: (901) 843-3292 | Email:



My hope is to turn my classroom into a laboratory of experimentation so that the course material, generally based on thematic concerns (eg. race and racism, intellectuals and politics, existentialism, enlightenment and romanticism, post-impressionism to postmodernism) can be pursued across disciplinary lines. Students will work at the intersection of history, philosophy, religion, and literature, among other subjects. We explore lots of visual and textual sources, attempting to understand their multiple layers of meaning, as well as the contexts in which they were produced and later interpreted, applying their insights to our own lives. Our topics will also be linked to intellectual events happening on campus, so that learning exceeds the bounds of the class. I also like to invite visiting scholars to join us so that students in their reading, assignments, and in the presentation of the material are constantly brought into contact with the latest approaches in the academy to the subjects of their study.


My research focuses primarily on how intellectuals represent Jews and Judaism and race and racism. I want to understand the patterns that underpin prejudice and the underlying assumptions that animate tolerance and mutual respect. I also work on the history of existentialism and on post-Holocaust French Jewish thought.

My 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.

I 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.

My most recent published work is an edited volume, Naming Race, Naming Racisms, 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 I did with Cornel West about black intellectuals in America today (Routledge, 2009).

My next book is co-edited 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.

I am currently working on completing an academic monograph, Critical Theories of Antisemitism: Confronting Modernity and Modern Judeophobia. It offers a comparative history of major theories of antisemitism 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.

I visited Israel in the summer of 2011 as a Senior Fulbright specialist at the invitation of Haifa University and Tel Aviv University. I also recently spent a year as scholar-in-residence at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2006-2007).

I serve as the U.S. Consulting Editor for Patterns of Prejudice, on the Advisory Board for H-Antisemitism, as Past President of the North American Sartre Society, on the Governing Council of the Western Society for French History, and on the National Board of Scholars for Facing History and Ourselves.
My radio show, “Counterpoint” airs monthly on WKNO-FM, NPR for the Mid-South. I interview academics and intellectuals who are making significant contributions to the national conversation on topical issues based on their research.


Ph.D., History, University of California, Irvine
M.A., History, University of California, Irvine
B.A., Philosophy, University of California, San Diego


History 105 – Race and Racism
History 405 –¬†Intellectuals and Politics

Selected Publications

Books and Edited Volumes

Situating Existentialism: Key Texts in Contexts (Columbia University Press, May 2012)

Naming Race, Naming Racisms (Routledge, April 2009)

Race After Sartre: Antiracism, Africana Existentialism, Postcolonialism (SUNY Press, “Philosophy and Race” series, September 2008)

Jean-Paul Sartre and the Jewish Question: Anti-antisemitism and the Politics of the French Intellectual (University of Nebraska Press, “Texts and Contexts” series, November 2006)


Homo Antisemiticus: Lessons and Legacies” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, vol. 23, no. 3 (Winter 2009): 461-477

“Between Philosemitism and Antisemitism: The Frankfurt School’s Anti-Antisemitism,” Antisemitism and Philosemitism in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries: Representing Jews, Jewishness and Modern Culture, ed. by Phyllis Lassner and Lara Trubowitz (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008): 23-46.

“So What’s New? Rethinking the ‘New Antisemitism’ in a Global Age,” Patterns of Prejudice, v. 42, n. 4-5 (Autumn 2008): 531-560.

“Intellectuals, Culture and the Vichy Years: Re-appraisals and New Perspectives,” Contemporary French Civilization, Denis Provencher and Andrew Sabonet, eds. special issue France, 1940-1944: The Ambiguous Legacy, vol. 31, no. 2 (Fall 2007): 83-115.

“Beauvoir’s Blues, Sartre’s Jews: Reading L’espoir maintenant,” Journal of Romance Studies, vol. 6, no. 1&2 (Spring/Summer 2006): 169-183.

“Alain Finkielkraut and the Nouveaux Philosophes: French-Jewish Intellectuals, the Afterlives of May ’68 and the Re-birth of the National Icon” Historical Reflections/Réflexions historiques, vol. 32, no. 1 (Fall 2006): 193-223.