Roman conquest leaves its mark on Jewish flesh. Whether through the physicality of war itself, the privations of famine, or the brutalities of sexual violence and enslavement, imperial dominance has powerful effect on the bodies of the conquered. In my new book, Rabbinic Tales of Destruction: Gender, Sex, and Disability in the Ruins of Jerusalem, forthcoming in November 2017 from Oxford University Press, I argue that disability is central to the Jewish experience of conquest in late antiquity. I read rabbinic texts through the prism of disability studies theory, in order to probe the cultural and political significance of physical and mental difference in early Jewish culture. Rather than taking disability as a straightforward medical category, disability studies hones critical tools to analyze how societies construct and contest notions of normativity and deviance, illuminating the way disability becomes a site for negotiating stigma and social power. In rabbinic accounts of the destruction of Jerusalem, the disabled Jewish body serves both as a visceral occasion for lament and a potent site of protest against empire.
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