The Eternally Rescued: The Jews and the Boundaries of Danish Civility

Maja Gildin Zuckerman*, Jakob Egholm Feldt

*Corresponding author for this work

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In this paper, we argue that proximity to primordial(ized) Danish civil values has generally saved the Jews in Denmark from violent antisemitism. Combining Alexander’s (The civil sphere. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006) account of an assimilatory mode of civil incorporation with his concept of “societalization” (Alexander in Am Sociol Rev 83(6):1049–1078, 2018; What makes a social crisis? The societalization of social problems. Wiley, Hobroken, 2019), we discuss how “re-societalizing” antisemitism led to strong enactment of anti-antisemitism and increased Jewish sub-group anxiety in the civil sphere. Anti-antisemitism in Denmark has historically been integrated into cultural codes and historical narratives in the civil sphere. We analyze how the 2015 terror attack in Copenhagen and a public debate about male circumcision caused a wave of reassurance of one of the core values in the Danish civil sphere, namely Jewish safety. Speeches from consecutive prime ministers and an ensuing “action plan against antisemitism” presented by the government in early 2022 demonstrate how contemporary antisemitism becomes integrated into a historical narrative of mutually ensured Danish civility between the majority and the Jewish minority. We conclude that despite its precarious character and the social anxiety provoked by societalization of antisemitism over the last seven years, civil solidarity within an assimilation mode of incorporation has proven to be surprisingly empowering and attractive for the Jewish minority in the Danish case.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Cultural Sociology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)293-315
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Published online: 11 February 2023.


  • Antisemitism
  • Societalization
  • Civial sphere theory
  • Incorporation
  • Denmark
  • Minority-majority relations

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