Animal/Nonhuman Workshop

University of Chicago

Month: February 2015

Monday, February 23, 2015: “A Chicken in Every Pot? Bird Exploitation in Ancient Egypt Reconsidered”

Rozenn Bailleul-Lesuer, NELC, University of Chicago

Request a copy of the paper by emailing kpflaum@uchicago.edu.

Ancient Egyptians left researchers of the 21st century a most valuable gift in the form of a vast repertoire of iconography, rich both in quantity and quality. A myriad of representations, from the solemn settings of temples and funerary offering chapels, to the more mundane media that are stone flakes and pot sherds, are at our disposal and provide plentiful material for us to evaluate of the role of birds in the lives of ancient Egyptians. It has often been assumed that these birds had a dominant role in Egyptian culture since they figure so prominently in both literary and artistic compositions. Is this prominence reflected in the actual daily lives of ancient Egyptians or is bird imagery a purely metaphorical, propagandistic, and symbolic construct? The research I have conducted during the past few years has led me to review a plethora of data involving the birds, which may have been pragmatically exploited along the Nile Valley, from the actual avian bones recovered in archaeological assemblages, to administrative accounts and personal letters recording ad hoc needs for fowl. It should come as no surprise that most of the evidence, especially the written material, has come from institutional settings, revealing that birds were an essential components of offerings presented to the gods. What about the Egyptians themselves, most especially the non-elite: did they eat birds? Did they have birds in their backyards? If so, which birds? Where did they come from? Proposing possible answers to these questions is challenging to say the least, considering that the demographic under consideration is for the most part silent in the record. During this workshop, I look forward to presenting my views on how the ancient Egyptian villagers incorporated birds in their lives, and how these interactions changed over time.

Light refreshments will be served.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Katharine Mershon (kpflaum@uchicago.edu).

Find our full workshop schedule here.

Monday, February 9, 2015: “A Field Guide to the Bestiarium Judaicum”

Jay Geller, Divinity, Vanderbilt University
in collaboration with the Jewish Studies workshop and the Chicago Center for Jewish Studies

Request a copy of the paper by emailing kpflaum@uchicago.edu.

An excerpt from Professor Geller’s paper:

The animalization of “the Jew” did not begin with the biologization of “Jew hatred” by racial antisemitism. Rather over the past two millennia a vast menagerie of verbal and visual images of nonhuman animals (pigs, dogs, vermin, rodents, apes, etc.) have been disseminated to debase and bestialize Jews. Analogies and/or identifications of Jews with either particular animals or animality in general, almost always derogatorily, had long accompanied discourse about and iconography of “the Jew.” These forays into the wild often appropriated their figuration from scriptural sources or subsequent Christian midrash (legend), although everyday practice was no less a source (e.g., Jewish dietary prohibitions, the routine castration of pigs, distinctions between mongrels and the aristocratic breeding of dogs). While the history of that unnatural Jewish bestiary will be sketched in the next chapter, it is not, however, the primary object of Bestiarium Judaicum. Instead this study focuses upon the deployment of such animal figures by Jewish-identified, pre-eminently Germanophone, writers during the Era of the Jewish Question in order to inquire, given this history, about what may be going on when they are telling animal tales and composing animal poems.

Light refreshments will be served.

This event is free and open to the public. Persons with disabilities who may need assistance to attend should contact Katharine Mershon (kpflaum@uchicago.edu).

Find our full workshop schedule here.

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