Anthropology of the Jews

Marcy Brink-Danan

in Jewish Studies

ISBN: 9780199840731
Published online August 2012 | | DOI:
Anthropology of the Jews


Anthropology of the Jews encompasses a modern intellectual tradition of ethnographic study of Jews, resulting in the collection and representation of behaviors, languages, and customs of a dispersed and diverse subject. Anthropologists of Jews regularly enter into dialogue about how the study of Jews calls into question accepted disciplinary boundaries, methods, and practices. Across Europe, Israel, and Argentina, for example, sociology and anthropology are often housed in one department under a broad umbrella of “social sciences.” As such, anthropological studies of Jews have taken place under many disciplinary headings: folklore, ethnography, linguistics, sociology, and cultural studies, just to name a few. Another central theme in anthropological studies of Jews takes on the issue of how Jewishness itself is defined, contested, negotiated, transmitted, and transformed. Anthropology of the Jews necessarily begins with the question of how Jewishness, in all its varied expressions, takes on meaning in the world. Anthropologists have resisted, in general, accepting a priori definitions of Judaism emanating from rabbis or community elites, looking instead to the variety of ways people relate to (or reject) tradition and change. Anthropologists allow these categories of belonging to surface from their informants, which sometimes leads to decidedly nonelite (especially non-rabbinic) definitions of Judaism and Jews. Anthropological representations of Jews have taken the form of popular literature, theatrical and museum exhibitions, and scholarly publication in ethnographies and academic journals.

Article.  7936 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »