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Powers of Diaspora

Two Essays on the Relevance of Jewish Culture

2002
Authors:

Jonathan Boyarin and Daniel Boyarin

Powers of Diaspora

Reasserts the centrality of Jewish culture to contemporary discussions of diaspora

Focusing on Jewish experience, Powers of Diaspora forcefully argues that diasporic communities exercise a distinct form of cultural power in order to maintain themselves.

The Boyarins provide a compelling apology for Diaspora, while also winningly, succinctly, and critically engaging a wide variety postcolonialist and post-structuralist thinkers.

Anglican Theological Review

Diaspora: the scattering of a people, often described as a condition of helplessness and a pathology to be overcome. It can also be, as Jonathan Boyarin and Daniel Boyarin assert in this provocative work, a unique source of power and strength. Focusing on Jewish experience, Powers of Diaspora forcefully argues that diasporic communities exercise a distinct form of cultural power in order to maintain themselves.

With reference to rabbinic culture and contemporary Jewish ethnography, the authors evoke the cultural strategies of Jewish diaspora—of regeneration through statelessness—that should prove increasingly relevant to the dilemmas and possibilities of the "new diasporas" born in the midst and in the aftermath of the modern world-system. Their work exposes the various methods by which peoples in diaspora "legislate" distinctive ways of life and establish formal communal structures, thus creating fluid yet effective boundaries between themselves and the others who surround them, and critiques the internal power dynamics that can sometimes result.

Powers of Diaspora strongly reasserts the place of Jewish culture in contemporary discussions of diaspora, where the cultural politics of postcolonialism have remarginalized Jewish experience; at the same time, it brings insights from studies of other diasporas to bear on the study of Jews. In challenging the equation of diaspora with powerlessness, the book questions the modern nation-state ideal and suggests that diasporic cultural formations offer important clues toward an alternative means of relating culture to polity.


Powers of Diaspora

Jonathan Boyarin is the Leonard and Tobee Kaplan Distinguished Professor of Modern Jewish Thought in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of Storm from Paradise and the editor of Remapping Memory, both available from Minnesota. He coedited, with Daniel Boyarin, Jews and Other Differences (Minnesota, 1997).

Daniel Boyarin is Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture in the departments of Near Eastern Studies and Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include Carnal Israel (1993), A Radical Jew (1994), and Unheroic Conduct (1997). He coedited, with Jonathan Boyarin, Jews and Other Differences (Minnesota, 1997).

Powers of Diaspora

The Boyarins provide a compelling apology for Diaspora, while also winningly, succinctly, and critically engaging a wide variety postcolonialist and post-structuralist thinkers.

Anglican Theological Review

Powers of Diaspora

Contents

Preface

Introduction: Powers of Diaspora

Tricksters, Martyrs, and Collaborators
Diaspora and the Gendered
Politics of Resistance
Circumscribing Constitutional Identities in Kiryas Joel

Notes
Bibliography
Index