Friday, May 13, 2011

Food and Identity in Early Rabbinic Judaism

I was waiting with bated breath for my friend Jordan Rosenblum's book to be published by Cambridge, but then it was, and I forgot til now to mention it. 

Now a very informative review of the book Food and Identity in Early Rabbinic Judaism has been posted on H-Judaic, so you can learn more about the book before deciding if you want to spend 50 pounds on it (that's UK currency - I don't think the book will help you lose weight). From the review:
Following decades of excitement over new social scientific methodologies in the study of religion, more recent scholars have asked why the new insights offered by these models so often appear inadequate. Jordan Rosenblum provides one answer by actively embracing anthropological innovations in the study of early rabbinic food practices, while simultaneously insisting on a different data set. He observes that previous treatments have elided biblical law and Jewish identity, overlooking the great changes that rabbinic texts made to the food (and other) practices that have shaped later Judaisms. Asserting the necessity of his own investigation of food and identity in early Judaism, he demonstrates that crucial, anthropological approaches have not been adequate for the consideration of rabbinic sources because the questions most frequently posed have not engaged available evidence. In reply to famous early explorations of Roland Barthes, Mary Douglas, and more recently Marvin Harris, Rosenblum argues that “the absolute origins of the prohibitions against pork, for example, are irrelevant. What matters for the Tannaim is that God instituted the ban in the Hebrew Bible. How they interpret, understand, and enact this regulation is verifiable” (p. 9). He promises a book that presents the appropriate data set, as well as the best tools and models for considering how the preparation and ingestion of food constructs identity.
If you read the rest of Susan Marks' review, you will indeed want to read the book. And I'm not just saying that because Rosenblum taught me to read rabbinic Hebrew.

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