Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

The Fantasy of “Jewish Colonialism”: Romania, 1860-1900

Fri31  Mar01:15pm(15 mins)
Melville Room


Andrei Dan Sorescu1
1 New Europe College Institute of Advance Studies, Romania


The present paper aims to examine the ways in which, in the second half of the nineteenth century, Romanian nation-builders imagined Jewish “colonisation” as an existential threat to a nascent Romanian state. Throughout this crucial period, the notion that Romania was at risk of becoming a “New Palestine” by means of demographic displacement and economic conquest was a talking-point shared across the political spectrum, even as, starting with the 1880s, Romania was, in fact, an early and significant point of departure for Jewish emigration and Zionism. As such, our paper will attempt to make sense of this contradiction, by placing colonial anxieties within a broader context in two ways. On the one hand, it will do so by showing that “colonial” topoi were not limited to antisemitic discourse, but in fact part of a constellation of morphologically similar and politically interdependent topoi, often spurred by debates over the hidden costs that the infrastructural development of the state could come with in terms of inviting foreign influence. On the other hand, Jewish emigration was frequently dismissed as a “simulacrum”/smokescreen for internal relocation within Romania, as a grand performance conspiring to weaken the international standing of Romania by “slandering” it as intolerant, or simply as implausible if the agricultural colonisation of a putatively “parasitical” people was the stated goal, in Palestine or elsewhere.