Joel Swanson

Undergraduate Discipline


BA, Swarthmore College. MA, PhD, The University of Chicago. A scholar of modern Jewish intellectual history, with a focus on both philosophical and literary sources, Swanson is particularly interested in questions of trauma and Jewish collective memory; racialization, gender identity, and the Jewish body; tensions between religious, ethnic, and national understandings of Jewish identity; and how the history of the Jewish people complicates and challenges the structures of philosophical universalism and the modern nation-state. He is currently working on adapting his dissertation into a book that examines an array of little-studied francophone Jewish writers and philosophers in the prewar period, suggesting that those figures' marginal and ambivalent relationships to Jewish memory and identity formation complicates our understanding of the relationship between Jewish and Christian thought during the period. Swanson has received extensive textual training in Jewish traditional sources in both Hebrew and Aramaic and is also well-versed in queer theory, gender studies, disability studies, and postcolonial studies. He has taught both Jewish history and continental philosophy of religions at The University of Chicago and University of Illinois Chicago and has spoken at an array of conferences and universities across three continents. An active member of the Association for Jewish Studies, he has published articles on topics as diverse as Jewish contributions to French deconstruction and psychoanalytic debates; competing Zionist and diasporist politics of memory; German Jewish philosophy; and Yiddish poetry. In addition to his academic writing, Swanson is a widely-published commentator on Jewish political issues in publications such as Haaretz, The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and The Forward. He has served as a researcher for the Leo Baeck Institute in Jerusalem and helped develop resources for a national curriculum on antisemitism education for the Anti-Defamation League. SLC, 2024–