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Discussion Guide

1) Freud was worried that his readers would be upset by the idea that Moses was an Egyptian. How do you think people would react today if they discovered that Moses was “really” an Egyptian? How would this element affect the story of Passover?

2) Many people have argued that “race” is a thing of the past: it has no biological or scientific meaning, it is often used to justify racist oppression or violence, and it is an offensive term. Do you agree? Why does Slavet insist on using this term when describing the nature of Jewishness? Is the term equally (or less or more) offensive and problematic when it is used to describe physical differences? 

3) Slavet suggests that the origins and practice of psychoanalysis are shaped by questions and matters of Jewishness. Does this mean that psychoanalysis is particularly or primarily Jewish and why would this matter? If it is particularly Jewish, is it still applicable to individuals who do not regard themselves as Jewish? Why or why not?

4) a) Have you ever been asked (directly or indirectly) if you are Jewish? Can you imagine any circumstances in which you might qualify or change your answer to this question? 
    b) Do you ever ask other people whether they are Jewish? Why? If a person were to pause or qualify the answer, how would you “help” the person to answer the question? 
    c) Do you think the question of Jewishness is a yes-or-no question? Why (or why not)?

5) Do you know any individuals who have “discovered” that they are “really” Jewish (after living many years believing that they are not Jewish)? What information led them to believe that they are Jewish? How did this change their perspective on life, history, family, politics, and so on? 

6) In the fourth chapter, Slavet discusses many forms of transmission: telepathy between two people, psychoanalytic transference, and hereditary transmission from one generation to the next. All of these involve the transmission of images, thoughts and memories through some mysterious unverifiable medium. 
    a) Have you ever sent or received images, thoughts or memories through one of these media? For example, have you sent or received telepathic messages? 
    b) Have you inherited any memories or experiences from your parents and/or your ancestors? How will you transmit your experiences to future generations? 
    c) How do you think modern technologies help or hinder the transmission of messages and understanding between two people? 

7) In the book, Slavet describes racial fever as “the irrepressible desire of individuals and communities to define themselves and others through genealogy, to discover (and sometimes invent) ancestral memories that can somehow explain the tensions and compulsions of the present, and to reconstruct and return to these narratives as if they were indisputable history and palpable facts.” 
    a) Do you experience (or have you ever experienced) racial fever? 
    b) Do you know others who seem particularly affected or afflicted by “racial fever”? 
    c) Do you think racial fever is something that should (or could) be cured? Or do you think it is something that we must learn to live with?