Join our WhatsApp Group for the latest updates and the best "throwbacks" of all things 18Forty


How do we tell our own stories? Which parts do we stress, emphasize, double-over with a smile and knowing wink, and which do we elide, skip over, exclude? We often think of the process of meaning making and storytelling as one of inclusion, in what we do tell, but just as important is that of exclusion. In some ways, the parts of the story we don’t tell are just as important as the parts we do tell. This too is its own story: The story of censorship.

Hayden White, a historian and cultural theorist (life goals) birthed the following term for the process by which we make meaning from the plenitude of what occurs in our life: emplotment. For White, we engage in emplotment by “including some events and excluding others, by stressing some and subordinating others,” writing some truths into the story and by necessity cutting other truths out.

Censorship, the word we used before the pundits and thought leaders of the West gave us ‘cancel culture,’ is the story of the parts of the story that didn’t make it into the story. Which itself is a story. Which we are now telling a story about. Put less obtusely: For every story, or meaning-system, or history, there is a story about what we include in that story and what we do not.

How does a religious community tell its own story? What do we write in and out of our stories, and what do we gain or lose through these inclusions and exclusions? This is the story of censorship. Each country, community, and family has a plot, a story, a narrative about where they came from and where they are going and what matters in the space in between. Through emplotment, we take part in writing this history, in making meaning and mystery out of the facts of our own lives. This is a process of inclusion and exclusion, by which some facts, ideas, values, and often people, are excluded from the story of our lives. By considering censorship, we hope to better appreciate the ways that we have written our own stories, and how we might make more meaning from the facts of our lives.

Censorship: Our Central Questions

1. Censorship and Society: Is there a place in a contemporary religious society for censorship?

2. Censorship and Communal Voices: How does a community determine what ideas, or which people, deserve a platform?

3. Censorship and Storytelling: How should communities choose the stories they tell themselves?


In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we talk to Altie Karper, editorial director of Schocken Books, about censorship and cancel culture.
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we talk to Jonathan Rosenblum - journalist and author of multiple ArtScroll biographies - about censorship and specifically how it applies to biographies.
In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we talk to Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter - rabbi, professor, and historian - about censorship as it relates to Jewish history.