Monday, February 26, 2018 at 3:30pm to 5:00pm
423 Morrill Hall
God's Immodest Witnesses and Ritual Technologies for Creating Jewish Life
Donna Haraway’s concept of a “modest witness,” and her questions about the possibility of an objective observer, shares a strange not-only-linguistic parity with religious discourses of modesty that not only set norms of bodily comportment and affect, but bleed into questions about the propriety and trustworthiness of knowledge once it is in the hands and through the eyes of women. Based on ethnographic research in the United States and Israel with Jewish birth workers, textual experts, and ritual facilitators, this talk will explore how the scientific moral economies of sight and Jewish discourses of modesty coexist, and how women, as subjects and objects, handle the intransitivity of demands about seeing and not seeing their own bodies. By focusing on the way that selves are witnessed or eliminated from view, I explore a range of technologies in place for maintaining religious laws and ontologies in an age of biomedicine and of feminist claims to Jewish textual authority.