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  • On Gender and Boundaries
  • Natalie B. Dohrmann

The editors have decided to devote a series of forums to the topic of "boundaries." Our plan is to create a space for the exploration of an idea or theme that traverses commonly recognized boundaries of method, discipline, or received wisdom in Jewish studies. We decided to structure the first of these under the subtheme of gender, and to that end have invited three contributors to reflect broadly on the topic. Each of the three responses combines in its own way the demands of scholarly inquiry with a desire to break new ground. Reflecting the fact that the category "gender" is by definition a permeable one, the scholars in this forum bring widely divergent approaches to the theme at hand, and trace a series of sometimes surprising transgressions and transversals—not only of identity and authority—but of space (domestic and urban), practice (childbearing, prayer), religious orientation, narrative framing, and, by extension, conventions and genres. Lori Hope Lefkovitz's theological psychoanalytic retelling of the narrative of the Garden of Eden reads gender as one of the many edges with which humans carve meaning into chaos, and traces how ultimately unstable these boundaries are. Tsippi Kauffman follows gender through the embedded frames of a Hasidic story about a difficult labor and delivery, and then outward through the unspoken narrative demands of the sefirotic realm. Ari Joscowicz describes how gender becomes a key trope of conversion narratives, and as such is a protagonist in intense debates over French nationalism, as played out in the complex triangulated relationship of Jews, Protestants, and Catholics in nineteenth-century France. [End Page 407]



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