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Heavenly Tablets: Interpretation, Identity and Tradition in Ancient Judaism


The concept of “diaspora” is used so frequently in the discourse of Jewish studies that to invoke it seems nearly cliché. Scholars of Jewish history have long been occupied with the project of unpacking the complexity of Jewish diasporic identity. And yet this very feature of Jewish experience that has for decades been taken for granted as a basic fact in the study of Judaism and Jewish culture, has of late received a good deal of attention in scholarly circles outside Jewish studies. “Diaspora” has emerged as a category of critical analysis that is embraced and applied not just to the case of the Jews, but to other dispersed populations as well. In the inaugural issue of the journal Diapsora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, its editor Khachig Tölölyan wrote in 1991 that “diasporas are the exemplary communities of the transnational movement” and noted that diaspora now can be used to talk about a whole host of border-crossing identities: immigrant, expatriate, refugee, guest-worker, exile community, overseas community, ethnic community. In that same volume, William Safran noted that diaspora is used as a metaphoric designation in much the same way that “ghetto” has come to designate all kinds of crowded, constricted and disprivileged urban environments and “holocaust” has come to be applied to all kinds of mass murder.


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