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Abstract

This dissertation focuses on the construction of social identity among Judeans following the dissolution of the kingdom of Judah in the first quarter of the 6th century ʙᴄᴇ. The prominent view among biblical scholars holds that the primary experience of the fall of the Jerusalem temple and the subsequent dispersion of a portion of Judah’s population was a universally traumatic one, and that this trauma came to define the new community it produced. It transformed these Yehudim from a cultural-political entity into a religious community defined by the “exile” and its theological (and geographical) consequences. This formulation is problematic in that it fails to consider the numerous ways in which ‘Judeanness’ is expressed, conceived, and constructed during the 6th and 5th centuries ʙᴄᴇ. Rather than a monolithic cultural concept defined by trauma and displacement, I show that the ‘Judeanness’ of the post-monarchic period was instead a complex, contextual, and continuous process of identity formation that was undertaken, consciously or unconsciously, by individuals and communities in a variety of contexts, producing new hybrid identities. Through a novel combination of the traditional tools of the historical-critical paradigm of Biblical Studies and a theoretical framework developed from the fields of Trauma, Diaspora, and Ethnicity Studies, I demonstrate the dynamic and historical nature of social identity in the ancient world and the myriad ways that identity might be expressed (and/or imposed). According to this framework, members of communities in different geographical, cultural, and political circumstances (including Babylonia, Egypt, Samaria, and Judea) would have conceived of and expressed their Judean identity differently. Crucially, these differences — often the product of the intercultural interactions facilitated by population movement — do not signal a dilution or diversion from some ‘ideal’ or ‘natural’ form of ‘Judeanness’; rather they reflect productive and adaptive processes that defined the diaspora experience for Judeans in the 6th and 5th centuries.

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