Jewish Studies Program to hold 'Lunch with Hannah Arendt'

Historian Philipp Lenhard from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich will visit Elon and share his research about the German-born American philosopher's life and friendships in the twentieth century. 

Scholars of intellectual history have often stated that the idea of friendship was a central feature of philosopher Hannah Arendt’s concept of politics.

German-born American philosopher Hannah Arendt.
Building on ancient Greek philosophy, especially Aristotle, her ideal was a democratic republic, whose structure rested on discursive rationality and political action. Consequently, Arendt regarded her personal network of intellectuals as a virtual agora and thus as a model for an ideal political community.

Against this background, it is surprising that Arendt’s relationship to her oldest and life-long friend Anne Mendelssohn-Weil has not enjoyed the attention of scholars so far. Having been friends since they were teenagers growing up in the Prussian metropolis of Königsberg, they maintained a close and intimate relationship until Arendt’s death in New York more than five decades later.

Based on Arendt’s political writings and unpublished correspondence, this Oct. 2 luncheon sponsored by Elon’s Jewish Studies Program will explore what friendship meant for two Jewish émigré women who saw themselves as being involved in a political struggle for democracy. The lunch and discussion will be held from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in Lakeside 213.

Furthermore, the discussion will focus on what this specific relationship can tell us about German-Jewish intellectual friendships in the 20th century more generally: Was the relationship between Arendt and Mendelssohn-Weil unique or can we detect more general patterns of modern Jewish sociality in it? Did Jewish friendships differ from those of Gentiles in the same time period, and if yes: in how far and why?

Philipp Lenhard is a research associate (Wissenschaftlicher Assistent) at the Institute of Jewish History and Culture at the University of Munich. In 2015-16 he was a visiting scholar at the Institute of European Studies at UC Berkeley. His fields of research are German-Jewish and French-Jewish history, especially the history of religion and ideas, from the 18th to the 20th centuries. Among his recent publications are the monograph “Volk oder Religion? Die Entstehung moderner jüdischer Ethnizität in Frankreich und Deutschland, 1782-1848” (V&R, 2014), an edited volume of the Munich Journal of Jewish History and Culture entitled “Lebensfreundschaften jüdischer Intellektueller im 20. Jahrhundert” (Munich, 2015), and an article titled “Friedrich Pollock’s Theoretical Contribution to the Study of Anti-Semitism” in New German Critique (2016). Currently, he is writing a biography of the German-Jewish social scientist Friedrich Pollock.

This event is organized by the Jewish Studies Program in collaboration with German Studies, Department of History and Geography, Insitute of Politics and Political Affairs, International and Global Studies Program, Department of Philosophy, and the Department of Political Science and Policy Studies. 

Please RSVP if you plan to attend this luncheon lecture. RSVPs can be emailed to Marnia Gardner.