This article interrogates the historiography of the field of classical Judaism and suggests what a revisionist feminist historiography of this foundational period might look like. Feminist analysis of gender, class, and race in antiquity allows us to see how scholarly biases today reinscribe and even exceed ancient prejudices. Building on Blossom Stefaniw’s essay “Feminist Historiography and Uses of the Past” and deploying Saidiya Hartman’s method of critical fabulation to analyze synagogue inscriptions and rabbinic texts, this article offers counternarratives of Jewish daily life in the period of Late Antiquity. Through investigation of evidence for enslaved, manumitted, and fostered people in the households of the late antique Jewish patriarchs, this article emphasizes the contribution of ostensibly nonnormative Jews to late antique synagogues, rabbinic learning, and Jewish society in Late Antiquity. It argues that our imaginings of Jewish society and the Jewish household in premodernity must change to accommodate the evidence of these heretofore marginalized Jews and the challenges posed by their enslaved status and/or gendered identity. This restoration of excluded perspectives and traditions represents a more ethical historiographic practice, which produces more inclusive and accurate representations of the past, sets the stage for recognizing continuities through the medieval era, and, finally, enables a different present, one with subjects empowered to construct more ethical social norms within and outside the academy.
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Research Article| February 01 2023
Critical Fabulation and the Foundations of Classical Judaism
University of Washington, Seattle
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Studies in Late Antiquity (2023) 7 (1): 29–74.
Mika Ahuvia; Critical Fabulation and the Foundations of Classical Judaism. Studies in Late Antiquity 1 February 2023; 7 (1): 29–74. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sla.2023.7.1.29
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