MAY 4, 12 PM PST: "BAJA CALIFORNIA DREAMING: HOW U.S. SETTLER COLONIALISM SHAPES JEWISH NATIONALISM," WITH MAXWELL GREENBERG
In January 1891, a group of Jewish American men gathered in the San Francisco B’nai B’rith lodge for the inauguration of the International Society for the Colonization of Russian Jews. Like other German-Jewish American, Reform, entrepreneurs at the time,the men discussed the potential of agricultural colonization as a strategy of immigrant-aid for Eastern European Jewish emigrants. Under the proposed plan, the International Society would negotiate a long-term lease with the Mexican government to secure 200,000,000 acres of land in Baja California on which Russian Jews would be resettled and commit themselves to the occupation of farming until their labor equaled the capital amount advanced to them by the American Jewish investors. Though the International Society was short lived, the proposal to establish an autonomous Jewish colony along the Pacific endured through the late 1930s, traveling across regional Jewish American presses, arriving in telegrams to Mexican diplomats, US politicians and European Jewish nationalist movement leaders, while alarming Mexican residents of Baja California. Centering the International Society’s plan to build a “Palestine on the Pacific,” this lecture offers a regional and relational strategy for thinking about movements for Jewish nationalism and their engagement with theologies of Manifest Destiny, the metaphor of the American frontier, and US-Mexico border formation. Furthermore, this lecture considers how such regional entanglements between Jewish nationalisms and colonial projects between the US and Mexico, interpolated Jewish American immigrant-aid efforts with US imperial expansion and evolving technologies of land theft, genocide and policing.