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The Jewish Body: An Anatomical History of the Jewish People
A history of the Jewish people from bris to burial, from “muscle Jews” to nose jobs.
Melvin Konner, a renowned doctor and anthropologist, takes the measure of the “Jewish body,” considering sex, circumcision, menstruation, and even those most elusive and controversial of microscopic markers–Jewish genes. But this is not only a book that examines the human body through the prism of Jewish culture. Konner looks as well at the views of Jewish physiology held by non-Jews, and the way those views seeped into Jewish thought. He describes in detail the origins of the first nose job, and he writes about the Nazi ideology that categorized Jews as a public health menace on par with rats or germs.
A work of grand historical and philosophical sweep, The Jewish Body discusses the subtle relationship between the Jewish conception of the physical body and the Jewish conception of a bodiless God. It is a book about the relationship between a land–Israel–and the bodily sense not merely of individuals but of a people. As Konner describes, a renewed focus on the value of physical strength helped generate the creation of a Jewish homeland, and continued in the wake of it.
With deep insight and great originality, Konner gives us nothing less than an anatomical history of the Jewish people.
Reviews for The Jewish Body: An Anatomical History of the Jewish People
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Full Disclosure - I read this book because a group in which I participate is going to study it. I was not particularly interested in the subject. I have not rated the book because I don't think I could give it a fair rating.After a promising 8 page first chapter about the bodyless God of the Jews, the religion of Judaism is not mentioned much through the rest of the book. The book is on the Jews as a people, not Judaism as a religion. The somewhat random chapters cover anything related to the human body and the Jews, though many of the chapters don't really have anything to do with each other. Konner discusses circumcision, menstruation, burial procedures, the Shoah, the modern Israeli army, Jewish genes, etc. These subjects may be of great interest to people with a long Jewish heritage. As a Gentile who more or less practices as a Jew, but has no family history with Judaism, and who follows the religion for ethical, philosophical and theological reasons, I just found all the social anthropology exceedingly boring.read more
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