Unsettled : an anthropology of the Jews / Melvin Konner.

Bibliographic Details
Main Author: Konner, Melvin.
Format: Book
Published: New York : Viking Compass, 2003.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

The history of Jewish culture is as variegated as any civilization that has witnessed the dawn and survived the ruin of many an empire, including its own. Rather than offer an exhaustive catalogue of major events and leaders in this highly readable history of the Jewish experience, Konner draws vividly on the lives of ordinary people for this cultural portrait. A professor of anthropology, human biology and Jewish studies at Emory University, Konner details how the crucible of dominant civilizations shaped Jewish religion, language and intellectual history. For instance, he shows how the clash between the Polish Empire and the Ukraine affected the rise of Hasidism in the 18th century. Each chapter is devoted to the study of one epoch in the development of Jewish life and culture and its contributions to the progress of surrounding cultures. In focusing on the post-Babylonian exile period, Konner discusses the biblical roots and significance of circumcision to show that for Jews, the ritual indicated their unique relationship with God. Other cultures, in Africa and elsewhere, he notes, practiced circumcision as a puberty and/or fertility rite, and returning to the biblical verses, Konner concludes fertility was an element of the Jewish ritual as well. Despite the many threats and challenges Jews have faced through the centuries, Konner concludes, "Jewish life will continue to be strong." He has written a celebratory but evenhanded tale, lauding the Jewish people's strength as he chronicles the adversities they've faced: "Jews, by dint of culture and history, are restless, critical, imaginative, resourceful, ambitious, cooperative, troubled by injustice, and committed to self-defense." (Sept. 29) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved