The End of the Semites

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Citations (Scopus)


There is a huge literature on the Western European concept of the Semites, which posited that Jews and Arabs belonged to a single race. This is the first essay to argue that this racial idea was at base theological, and for this reason possessed an inner fragility, in which the Jew and the Arab were always conceived differently. The theological essence of the Semitic idea was the reason why ultimately this notion, which was of tremendous influence in Europe and Western Asia, fell from grace so quickly from the 1930s. In short, the argument of the essay provides an entirely new history of the Semite located in political theology, which changes the chronology and dynamics of its rise and fall. Finally, the article integrates the intellectual history of Western Europe with that of European empire in Western Asia, which Edward Said attempted, but without the use of imperial archives. The essay also offers a new explanation of why antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe splintered in the 20th century. More broadly, it is intended as a contribution to the wave of scholarship in recent years that argues for the Christianity of European modernity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAntisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story?
EditorsJames Renton, Ben Gidley
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-42600-6
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Mar 2017


  • Semite
  • racism
  • Orientalism
  • empire
  • antisemitism
  • Islamophobia

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  • Research Output

    • 2 Citations
    • 1 Article

    Bodin Now; or, What's Wrong with Intellectual History?

    RENTON, JAMES. & Topolski, A., 21 Aug 2020, In : Political Theology. 21, 6, p. 475 478 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • Profiles

    Cite this

    Renton, J. (2017). The End of the Semites. In J. Renton, & B. Gidley (Eds.), Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story? (pp. 99-140). Palgrave Macmillan.