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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg 2021

Imagining Ritual Murder: Social Knowledge in the Making

Daniel Véri

Abstract

This study aims to show the eminent role of the imagination and its materialized forms in the creation of long lasting ‘knowledge’ of ‘Jewish ritual murder’. The two examples examined here belong to the cultural history of the Tiszaeszlár blood libel (1882-1883), which has had a long-lasting effect in Hungary. Both case studies, albeit different regarding their genre and their primary audience, attest to the significance of cultural products in the creation, dissemination and survival of antisemitic prejudices. Paintings depicting the imagined ritual murder were primarily intended for the politically active urban bourgeoisie, whereas the genre of folk songs appeared as a predominantly rural phenomenon; yet on many occasions both the actors involved and the cultural products created transcended social boundaries. The songs and the images created a tangible materiality for the alleged ritual murder; this perceived reality was crucial for the embedding of the blood libel legend into the common consciousness and the creation of a ‘solid’ knowledge of it; this largely passive knowledge was activated decades later, in the case of the blood libel accusations, against survivors of the Holocaust.

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston