Reconfiguring Diaspora: The Transformation of the Jewish Diaspora in Antiquity


Reconfiguring Diaspora” is an NWO-sponsored project.

The prime objective of this research project is to reconfigure the classical notion of Diaspora by means of a thorough, comparative, and interdisciplinary study of a carefully selected set of Jewish Diasporic communities in the Mediterranean and Near East during the late antique and early medieval periods (200-700 C.E.). Using a wide array of primary source materials and research methodologies, the project documents how the classical notion of Diaspora evolved to the extent that this particular concept acquired some of its most essential characteristics precisely during the late antique period. Studying the Jewish Diaspora of Late Antiquity against the larger backdrop of a major late antique systemic change during which religion became the single most important marker of difference in intergroup interactions, this project is particularly interested in analyzing how such a development determined the manner in which a typical Diaspora population handled its continuously evolving Diasporic group-ness and self-identity.

By investigating the politics of the Jewish Diaspora as an evolutionary process arising out of a very specific historical constellation, this project seeks to contribute to current debates in the area of Diaspora studies, to studies on the role of religion to enforce in-group solidarity and complicate out-group relations in Diaspora-settings, as well as to discussions on the perception of modern-day Diaspora communities in our own midst.