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Family and Other Fictions in Late-Ancient Jewish Society

Monday, March 15, 2021, 45:30 p.m.


The recourse to “family law” and the language of personal status has often reproduced ahistorical concepts of family and household in the study of ancient Judaism. How did notions of mutuality and reciprocity become so embedded in the discourse about rabbinic management of women’s labor and reproduction? This talk, presented by Pratima Gopalakrishnan, considers what other questions we might ask about these texts once the primacy of a certain kind of “family” is challenged.

About the Speaker
Gopalakrishnan is a scholar of late-antique Jewish religion and history who uses theoretical approaches drawn from feminist and queer theory, and slavery and labor studies. She works primarily with late-antique rabbinic Jewish texts, as well as the textual and material artifacts of late-antique and early medieval legal cultures, and considers how ostensibly economic ancient discussions—of the household, the agricultural field, but also the laboring body itself—were always imbricated with the projects of defining religious, ethnic, and sexual difference. Gopalakrishnan received her Ph.D. from the religious studies department at Yale University, where she wrote a dissertation titled “Domestic Labor and Marital Obligations in the Ancient Jewish Household.” She is currently the Perilman Post-Doctoral fellow at the Duke Center for Jewish Studies.

The Salo Baron New Voices in Jewish Studies Award Lecture is presented in partnership with Columbia University’s Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies.