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A pair of hungry, hungry pygmy hippos at the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, 2008. Wikimedia
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Finally, Academia’s Asking the Real Question: Is Islamophobia Accelerating Global Warming?

But what about the relationship between anti-Semitism and pygmy hippos?

by
Liel Leibovitz
May 11, 2016
Wikimedia
A pair of hungry, hungry pygmy hippos at the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, 2008. Wikimedia

Is Islamophobia accelerating global warming?

That was the real topic of a real talk given at a very real elite American university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earlier this week. “This talk,” went the invite, “examines the relation between Islamophobia as the dominant form of racism today and the ecological crisis. It looks at the three common ways in which the two phenomena are seen to be linked: as an entanglement of two crises, metaphorically related with one being a source of imagery for the other and both originating in colonial forms of capitalist accumulation. The talk proposes a fourth way of linking the two: an argument that they are both emanating from a similar mode of being, or enmeshment, in the world, what is referred to as ‘generalised domestication.’ ”

You can go ahead and mock it as drivel. You are free to hold it up as yet another example of academia’s descent into fierce idiocy. You can snicker all you want. But I won’t be joining you, because news of this talk inspired me to apply to MIT with a talk of my own, addressing a subject I’ve long argued was unfairly ignored: the relation between anti-Semitism and the rapid disappearance of the pygmy hippo.

Is anti-Semitism accelerating the extinction of this adorable muddy mammal? My talk will look at the ways in which the two phenomena are seen to be linked—both Jews and miniature hippos being, of course, historical targets of derision and victims of irrational hatreds—as well as the enmeshment between the two groups, leading to the generalized domestication of both: the pygmy hippos in zoos and the Jews in Ra’anana, Scarsdale, and Boca. This bold and subversive talk will expose two of the most dominant forms of racism today, against the Jews and against super cute, teensy weensy wittle hippos.

I ain’t kidding. I’ve written to MIT’s Ecology and Justice Forum in Global Studies and Languages, which hosted the Islamophobia-and-global-warming talk, and demanded equal time. Islamophobia is a serious topic. So is global warming. And so are little hippos.

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.

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