Since the late 1960s, scholars of ethnography and of talmudic sources have developed comparable frameworks for analyzing how each literary tradition represents authority, despite apparently radical differences in media and ideologies. These literatures can be compared more specifically at the level of genre. Reading the Babylonian Talmud as dialogic ethnography through the prism of a key ethnographic convention (the arrival scene, in which an ethnographer encounters the field) shows that (post)modern ethnographers’ strategies for representing their own authority are comparable to those of the Talmud’s author-redactors. A case-based study of arrival scenes in light of the Talmud’s compositional process—the redaction of smaller units into larger arguments—illustrates the redactors’ different ways of representing their own authority. Their techniques fall along a scale of reflexivity, from minimal (self-reflectively ironic) to more disruptive. Their degree of reflexivity is defined by three literary variables: transparency (showing their artistry as such), choreography (intensifying relations among the dialogue’s players as well as with its audiences), and excess (pushing the limits of the dialectic’s initial or apparent framework).


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pp. 29-80
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