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Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature$
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Mira Balberg

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780520280632

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520280632.001.0001

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Subjecting the Body

Subjecting the Body

(p.48) 2 Subjecting the Body
Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature

Mira Balberg

University of California Press

The second chapter explores how the rabbis perceived of the human body as a material entity and how they imagined its physical function in the contraction and transmission of impurity. The chapter focuses on their construction of the body as a fluid and modular entity whose boundaries are in constant flux. The chapter shows that the rabbis divide the body into different areas in such way that areas that are less consequential to the subject and that one does not strongly identify with oneself (such as interior or invisible parts) are not susceptible to impurity. Thereby, the rabbis create a unique paradigm of a bodily self, in which the body is identical to the self only insofar as the body is invested with subjectivity.

Keywords:   modularity, (bodily) boundaries, interior (parts of the body), invisible (parts of the body), susceptibility to impurity

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