One of the persistent impediments to the development of Jewish Studies as a field is its marginalization by the academic disciplines on whose methodologies and literatures it is itself dependent. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the study of Jewish nationalism. As Mitchell Cohen has pointed out, the great majority of theoretical and comparative studies of nationalism either disregard the topic of Jewish identity altogether or make offhand and frequently misleading references to it as an illustration of some broader point or as an awkward exception to a rule.1 This in turn makes it diffcult for scholars of Jewish identity to make effective use of many of the existing developmental and typological paradigms of national identity. In this introductory chapter, I would like to address this disconnection by suggesting some ways in which the very tension between certain accepted notions about nationalism and the idiosyncratic characteristics of the Jewish case can be turned to productive use.
One of the least questioned assertions of the theoretical literature on nationalism is that nationalism is a strictly modern phenomenon.2____________________