The Stains of Culture: An Ethno-Reading of Karaite Jewish Women

Product Details
Wayne State University Press
Publish Date
6.12 X 8.98 X 0.68 inches | 0.93 pounds

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About the Author

Ruth Tsoffar is assistant professor of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan.


Expertly matching boldness with subtlety, Ruth Tsoffar explores and analyzes the 'language of blood' (menstruation) that continues to shape and texture the contours of Karaite Jewish quotidian practices. Traversing the contested, male-centered history of 'authentic' Judaism, she effectively positions in high relief the crucial and necessary role of Karaite women as cultural reproducers. Moreover, Tsoffar's brave ethnography is simultaneously a refreshingly honest and theoretically rigorous study of the cultural politics of purity and pollution in contemporary society.

--Jennifer Robertson "University of Michigan"

In The Stains of Culture, Ruth Tsoffar has created a stunning work of scholarship on the Karaite Jews, originally from Egypt, who reside in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Stains of Culture is elegant, evocative, and unique. Assuredly, it will be a classic in the scholarly canon."

-- "Western Folklore"

This beautifully wrought and effectively argued first chapter of The Stains of Culture provides an important portent of the book's continued course. Tsoffar clearly has a lot of skill as a writer and researcher, and at its best, The Stains of Culture can be incisive, thought-provoking, logically sound, and well-written."

-- "Journal of Folklore Research"

The study goes beyond the historical confines of Karaites and their culture. This book focuses upon the ethno-readings" of women within one cultural segment of the Karaite community; it is of great value to anthropologists and to those interested in learning more about contemporary Karaites."

-- "Journal of the American Oriental Society"

To read as a Karaite, Ruth Tsoffar tells us, is to attend to the alphabet that spells text, body, and blood. It means compellingly to describe and reenact how a new and ancient community of readers lives and resists a double minoritization that cuts across historical, religious, and gender lines. After this unique and exacting book, one should no longer utter--indeed, read--the word 'Judaism' with much tranquility.

--Gil Anidjar "Columbia University"

Combing textual analysis and ethnographic study, Tsoffar writes on women's bodily practices vis-a-vis patriarchal authority. The Stains of Culture examines women's rituals as forms of 'reading, ' precisely in relation to the Karaite community, whose tradition against interpretation is at the very core of its identity.

--Ella Shohat "Tisch School of the Arts, New York University"