Contemporary Jewry

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 112–136 | Cite as

Reflections on queen Esther: The politics of Jewish Ethnography

  • Ayala Fader


Jewish Identity Jewish Woman Sacred Text Contemporary JEWRY Interpretive Framework 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    The broader research on which this article is based investigates language socialization and bilingualism, gender, and embodiment among hasidic women and children. For recent formulations of the language socialization research paradigm, see Kulick, Don and Bambi B. Schieffelin, 2004. “Language socialization” inA Companion to Linguistic Anthropology. A. Duranti, ed., p.349–368. (Maiden, Mass., Blackwell). For publications of my research, see Fader, Ayala, 2001, “Literacy, bilingualism and gender in a Hasidic community,”Linguistics and Education 12(3), p. 261-283. Fader, Ayala, 2006. “Learning faith: Language socialization in a Hasidic community,”Language in Society (35)2, p. 207–229. Fader, Ayala, in press. “Redeeming sacred sparks: Linguistic syncretism and gendered language shift among Hasidic Jews,”Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 17(1).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Mahmood, Saba, 2005.Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton, Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Marty, Martin and R. Scott Appleby, eds., 1991.Fundamentalism Observed. Chicago, Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For one critique of the term “fundamentalism,” see Nagata, Judith, 2001. “Beyond theology: Toward an anthropology of ’fundamentalism,’”American Anthropologist 103(2) p. 481–498. She suggests that the term’s Christian provenance is problematic, as is its conflation of religious nationalism and fundamentalism.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Boyarin, Jonathan, 1988. “Waiting for a Jew: Marginal Redemption at the Eighth Street Shul” inBetween Two Worlds: Ethnographic Essays on American Jewry. Ithaca, Cornell University Press, p. 52–76. From the mid-1980s on, there has been scholarship that critiqued the ways that ethnography had exoticized and dehistoricized the Other through particular ways of writing. See, for example, Clifford, James, 1988.The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art. Cambridge, Harvard University Press; Fox, Richard G, ed., 1991.Recapturing Anthropology: Working in the Present. Santa Fe, School of American Research Press; Marcus, George E. and Michael J. Fischer, 1986.Anthropology as Cultural Critique: An Experimental Moment in the Human Sciences. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    In her ethnography of assisted conception in Israel, Susan Kahn similarly has noted that as a Jewish woman ethnographer, her position blurred the distinction between observer and observed. Kahn, Susan, 2000.Reproducing Jews: Assisted Conception. Durham, Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    e.g., Benor, Sarah, 2004.Second-Style Socialization with Newly Religious Women. Doctoral Dissertation, Stanford University Press. El-Or, Tamar, 1994.Educated and Ignorant: Ultraorthodox Women and Their World. Boulder, Lynne Riemer Press.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Belcove-Shalin, 1988. “Becoming more of an Eskimo,” inBetween Two Worlds: Ethnographic Essays on American Jewry, J. Kugelmass, ed. Ithaca, Cornell University Press, p. 77–102.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Levine, Stephanie Wellen, 2003.Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers: An Intimate Journey Among Hasidic Girls. New York, New York University Press.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Davidman, Lynn, 2002. “Truth, subjectivity, and ethnographic research,” inPersonal Knowledge and Beyond: Reshaping the Ethnography of Religion. J. Spickard, J. Landres, and M. McGuire, eds. New York, New York University Press.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    For a seminal article, see Narayan, Kirin, 1993. “How native is the native anthropologist?” inAmerican Anthropologist 95, p. 671–685. Other references include Kondo, Dorrine, 1990.Crafting Selves: Power, Gender, and Discourses of Identity in a Japanese Workplace. Chicago, Chicago University Press; Pissaro, Joanne, 1997. “You can’t take the subway to the field: ‘Village’ epistemologies in the global village,” inAnthropological Locations: Boundaries and Grounds of a Field Science, A. Gupta and J. Ferguson, eds. Los Angeles, University of California Press, p. 147-162; Williams, Brackette, 1996. “Skinfolk, not kinfolk: Comparative reflections of the identity of participant-observation in two field situations,” inFeminist Dilemmas in Fieldwork. D. Wolf, ed. New York, Westview Press, p. 72-95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Lal, Jayati, 1996. “Situating locations: The politics of self, identity and ‘Other’ in living and writing the text” inFeminist Dilemmas in Fieldwork. D. Wolf, ed. New York, Westview Press, p. 32–71.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Heilman, Samuel, 1999.Defenders of the Faith: Inside Ultra-Orthodox Jewry, Berkeley, University of California Press.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Harding, Susan, 2000.The Book of Jerry Falwell. Princeton, Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Hayim Soloveitchik writes about non-hasidic Haredim in North America; however, he suggests (and I agree) that many of his arguments also hold for hasidic Jews here. See Soloveitchik, Hayim, 1994. “Rupture and reconstruction: The transformation of contemporary orthodoxy,” inTradition 28(4), p. 64–130.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    I have not heard hasidic women in Brooklyn use the term. They call themselveshasidish (hasidic),frum (religious), orhaymish (homey). See also Glinert, Lewis, and Miriam Isaacs, eds., 1999. “Pious voices: The Language of Ultra-Orthodox Jews,” inInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language. Special volume, 138.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Goldberg, Harvey, ed., 1987.Judaism Viewed from Within and from Without. Albany, Suny Press, p. 247. See also Friedman, Menachem, 1987. “Life tradition and book tradition in the development of ultra-orthodox Judaism,” in H. Goldberg, ed. p. 235-256.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ethnographic studies of hasidic Jews have been carried out in Canada, Israel, and New York. For Canada, see, Shaffir William, 1972.Life in a Religious Community: The Lubavitcher Chassidim in Montreal. Toronto, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston of Canada; and Shaffir, William, 1995. “Boundaries and self-presentation among the Hasidim: A study in identity maintenance,” in J. Belcove-Shalin, ed., p. 31–68. For New York, see Boyarin, Jonathan, 2002. “Circumscribing constitutional identities,” inPowers of Diaspora, J. Boyarin and D. Boyarin, eds. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, p. 105–157; Kamen, Mark, 1985.Growing Up Hasidic: Education and Socialization in the Bobover Hasidic Community. New York, AMS Press; Koskoff, Ellen 2001.Music in Lubavitcher Life. Urbana and Chicago, University of Illinois Press; Kranzler, George, 1995. “The economic revitalization of the Hasidic community of Williamsburg,” in J. Belcove-Shalin, ed., p. 181–204; Levine, Stephanie Wellen, 2003.Mystics, Mavericks and Merrymakers: An Intimate Journey among Hasidic Girls. New York, NYU Press; Morris, Morris, 1998.Lubavitcher Women in America: Identity and Activism in the Post-War Era. Albany, SUNY Press; Rubin, Israel, 1972.Satmar: Island in the City. Chicago, Quadrangle Books. For Israel see El-Or, Tamar, 1994.Educated and Ignorant. Boulder, Lynne Riemer Press; Friedman, Menachem, 1990. “Jewish zealots: Conservative versus innovative,” inReligious Radicalism and Politics in the Middle East. E. Sivan and M. Friedman, eds. Albany, SUNY Press, p. 127–142; Heilman, Samuel C, 1999.Defenders of the Faith: Inside Ultra-Orthodox Jewry. Berkeley, University of California Press; Kahn, Susan M., 2002. “Rabbis and reproduction: The social uses of new reproductive technologies among ultraorthodox Jews in Israel,” inInterpreting Fertility, M. Inhorn and F. Van Balen, eds. Berkeley, University of California Press, p. 52–71.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Poll, Solomon, 1962.The Hasidic Community of Williamsburg: A Study in the Sociology of Religion. New York, Schocken Books; Poll, Solomon, 1995. “The charismatic leader of the Hasidic community: The zaddik, the rebbe,” in J. Belcove-Shalin, ed., p. 257-276.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Based on Tractate Megillah in the Babylonian Talmud.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Mrs. Silver uses Hasidic Yiddish. Yiddish and English are the vernaculars in this community. Liturgical Hebrew/Aramaic is the language of prayer. Yiddish is transcribed from its Hebrew orthography using a modified version of the YIVO system (see Weinreich, Uriel, 1990.College Yiddish. New York, Columbia University Press). This was done to best represent the Yiddish spoken by the hasidim with whom I worked. Throughout the article Yiddish and Hebrew are italicized. Hasidic Yiddish includes a large number of borrowings from English which have become part of Hasidic Yiddish. To represent these borrowings I underline and italicize them. In girls’ education, Yiddish is the vernacular in the morning in classrooms where religious subjects are taught. In the afternoon, English is the medium for the study of secular subjects. For an in-depth analysis of the Yiddish and English spoken by community members see Fader, Ayala, in press. “Redeeming sacred sparks: Syncretic language and gendered language shift in a Hasidic community,” inJournal of Linguistic Anthropology 17(1).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    For a discussion of materialism see also Kranzler, George, 1961.Williamsburg: A Jewish Community in Transition. New York, Phillip Feldheim. Thanks to an anonymous reviewer for pointing this out.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    The name is a pseudonym.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Fader, Ayala, 2006. “Learning faith: Language socialization in a Hasidic community,” inLanguage in Society 35(2) p. 207–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Fabian, Johannes, 1983.Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object. New York, Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    See also Ammerman, Nancy, 1988.Bible Believers. New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    For example, during Passover there now are many products that do not contain yeast or leavening agents (forbidden during the holiday) but that mimic foods with leavening. These created “grays,” according to a counselor, and should be rejected.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    See Harding, Susan, 2000. See also Soloveitchik, Hayim, 1994.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Haraway, Donna, 1991.Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: Reinventing Nature. New York, Routledge.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Huey-Jacobs, Lanita, 2002. “The natives are gazing and talking back: Reviewing the problematics of positionality, voice and accountability among ‘native’ anthropologists,” inAmerican Anthropologist 104(3), p. 791–804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Harding, Susan, 1991. “Representing fundamentalism: The problem of the repugnant cultural other,” inSocial Research, 91, vol. 58 (2), p. 373–393.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Harding, Susan, 1991. “Representing fundamentalism: The problem of the repugnant cultural other,” inSocial Research, 91, vol. 58 (2), p. 393.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Harding, Susan, 1991. “Representing fundamentalism: The problem of the repugnant cultural other,” inSocial Research, 91, vol. 58 (2), p. 393.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Weissler, Chava, 1995. “Women’s studies and women’s prayers: Reconstructing the religious history of Ashkenazic women,” inJewish Social Studies 1.2, p. 28–47.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Peskowitz, Miriam and Laura Levitt, 1997.Judaism Since Gender. New York, Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ayala Fader

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations