Reliance on essentialist or syncretistic models of cultural dynamics has limited past evaluations of ancient Jewish populations. This reexamination of evidence for Jews of North Africa offers an alternative approach. Drawing from methods developed in cultural studies and historical linguistics, this book replaces traditional categories used to examine evidence for early Jewish populations and demonstrates how direct comparison of Jewish material evidence with that of its neighbors allows for a reassessment of what the category of “Jewish” might have meant in different North African locations and periods and, by extension, elsewhere in the Mediterranean. The result is a transformed analysis of Jewish cultural identity that both emphasizes its indebtedness to larger regional contexts and allows for a more informed and complex understanding of Jewish cultural distinctiveness.
About the Author
Karen B. Stern, Ph.D. (2006) in Religious Studies, Brown University, is Lecturer of Religion at University of Southern California.
Table of ContentsPreface ix
Toward a Cultural History of Jewish Populations in Roman North Africa 1
Locating Jews in a North African World 51
Naming Like the Neighbors: Jewish Onomastic Practices in Roman North Africa 99
Inscribing the Dead to Describe the Living: Reading Jewish Identity through Funerary Language 145
Questioning "Jewishnesss" in the North African Synagogue: Hammam Lif as a Case Study 193
North African Jewish Responses to Death: Choosing Appropriate Gods, Neighbors, and Houses in the Afterlife 255