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An Intersectional Analysis of Ancient Jewish Travel Narratives

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ANINAN (An Intersectional Analysis of Ancient Jewish Travel Narratives)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2022-08-01 do 2024-01-31

The project investigates literary and cultural representations of travel and mobility – here defined as the often temporary move of a person from their home to another location – in ancient Israelite/Jewish writings. The sources under scrutiny include selected texts of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and other ancient Jewish writings from the Hellenistic and early Roman eras (ca. 300 BCE – 100 CE). In addition, the primary sources include comparative data, as it is often meaningful and illuminating to analyse the Israelite/Jewish texts in conversation with other documentary and literary sources from the ancient Near East and the ancient Mediterranean region.

Who travelled in the ancient world and why? In brief, ANINAN seeks to understand how human mobility was perceived and/or imagined in Jewish antiquity, including its agents, underlying motives, and diverse outcomes. The main objectives are: (1) to produce a series of case studies that illustrate the portrayal of human mobility and its social confines in ancient Israelite/Jewish literature; and (2) to compare and theorize the literary and cultural representations of travel in an intersectional frame. The intersectional approach is novel and unearths questions of social stratification that evidently pertain to (in)voluntary forms of mobility, including the individual profile of the traveller and the various social realities that prompted, enabled, or compelled their movement or relocation in the first place.

The travel accounts investigated by the ANINAN team reveal striking intersectional concerns, thus highlighting the social complexity of human phenomena such as travel and mobility. While multiple ‘categories of difference’ characterize the travelling agents described in the sources, ANINAN seeks to demonstrate how movement also affects and shapes these categories, e.g. by leading the travelling agent to negotiate, refine, or recreate aspects of their identity. Moreover, the ancient sources portraying various people on the move illustrate encounters between Israelites/Jews and other people groups, which adds to our understanding of cultural interaction in the ancient world.
The team consists of the PI, a PhD student, and several postdocs who conduct research in five different work packages focused on Hebrew Bible texts (WP1), reception of biblical narratives (WP2), Hellenistic Jewish novels (WP3), Jewish travel in the Greco-Roman world (WP4), and intersectional theorizing (WP5).

The PI Elisa Uusimäki works on all the work packages. Up until now, she has worked on WPs 1, 2, and 4. As a result, she has explored several aspects of travel in Hebrew Bible and ancient Judaism in four journal articles (1 published; 3 in press) and three book chapters (1 published; 1 in press; 1 under review). A great deal of her research revolves around the question of women's travel, and she is currently writing a monograph on the topic. In addition, Uusimäki's publications discuss travel from different angles, including plague-related (im)mobility, travel-related anxiety, travel's transformative effect, and intercultural contact. She has also published three articles that popularize the research conducted in ANINAN.

The PhD student Anat Shapiro has been working on her monograph, which explores freedom of movement in the book of Jonah (WP1), since Sept 2021. Shapiro was trained comparative literature in Tel Aviv and brings solid expertise in literary and narrative studies to the project. She is currently in the writing phase of her PhD project, and is expected to submit her dissertation in the second half of 2024.

Lasse Toft and Miriam DeCock joined ANINAN as postdocs for short periods of time in 2022. Both of them conducted research on reception history (WP2): DeCock co-authored an article on travel and pseudepigraphy with the PI, whilst Toft is working on the reception of Abraham's travel in late antiquity.

Postdoc Gillian Glass joined ANINAN in Jan 2023 and investigates Hellenistic Jewish literature in its wider Mediterranean context, as well as contributing to the synthesis part of the project (WPs 2, 3 and 5). She has published an article on Joseph and Aseneth (in press) and submitted another article on 2 Maccabees (under review). These publications pave way for Glass' key contributions to ANINAN: she is working on a series of articles related to travel's educational and gendered dimensions in early Jewish writings, exploring issues such as the expansion of biblical lore, the pursuit of knowledge, and the formative function of travel in Hellenistic Jewish novels.

Postdoc Eelco Glas has worked on early Jewish migrant authors in the Greco-Roman context (WP4) since Jan 2023. He has published a peer-reviewed article on movement in Josephus' Judean War (in press), three book reviews (published), and a popular article on Philo (in press), as well as co-authoring a handbook article on Josephus (in press). All of these publications prepare for Glas' key contributions to ANINAN: he is working on a series of articles related to the themes of travel, hospitality, migrant authorship, and diaspora in the texts of Josephus, Philo, and Paul.
The research conducted in ANINAN is currently at Stage I of the project, i.e. the team members work on case studies that investigate aspects of travel and mobility in the ancient Israelite/Jewish tradition, paying special attention to questions of social life and its complexity. These case studies address a myriad of literary sources from the ancient world, as they concern the portrayal of travel in the Hebrew Bible, parabiblical literature, and early Jewish writings. Comparative analysis and intersectional theorizing will take place later in Stage II, which will begin in the second half of 2024. Yet the case studies conducted so far have already demonstrated the need to think intersectionally when it comes to mobility in Jewish antiquity (and in the ancient world in general), for the stayers and movers encountered in the sources hail from different social contexts that both force and enable different types of (in)voluntary travel. The movers encountered in the sources are not a homogeneous collective but draw attention to the diversity of human society and related questions of power. Our research will thus result in a more nuanced notion of ancient travellers and the social confines of their movement, as well as leading us to problematize and deconstruct modern and romantic notions of travel. In addition, the project is expected to move beyond the state of the art as regards simplistic notions of homeland/diaspora in the context of early Judaism and our understanding of ancient travel as an affective phenomenon, and it will make a novel contribution to the question of migrant authors in the ancient Mediterranean in the light of the Jewish material.