This year the Frankel Institute brings together 11 researchers working on the theme “Materiality in Antiquity.” Covering a diverse range of topics, scholars are asking questions about the material of God’s body for ancient Jews and members of the Jesus movement (Deborah Forger), the importance of pottery in adjudicating identity (Juan Tebes), the sensory experience of the ancient mikveh (ritual bath; Rick Bonnie), and many more. Fellows meet each week to workshop publications in progress and share their work in a variety of public events. Highlights from last semester included the well-attended Non/Human Materials Before Modernity conference, which brought together 22 scholars from the US and beyond to consider the various ways in which nonhumans (objects, images, divinities, animals) were conceptualized and made across a variety of ancient and medieval traditions. Five fellows also presented objects of their choice from the Kelsey Museum’s collection, in a hands-on series of short talks, entitled, Frankel+Kelsey: Jews and Artifacts at the Museum. Besides these events, Fellows were brought to the pottery studio to understand materials in a direct fashion by classical archaeologist and potter Professor Natalie Abell, and were visited by artist and writer Jeffrey Abt who shared some projects in progress while also initiating a project in which Fellows worked with one of the most ancient scholarly materials: parchment.
This semester, we promise an exciting roster of events. Professor Gregg Gardner will present on the power of money in Jewish antiquity (January 16) and Professor Oded Irshai will regale us with accounts of Jewish apocalypses (February 13). Yael Bartana, artist and filmmaker, will be presenting her film Inferno about the building of the Third Temple, and will be in conversation with Head Fellow Rachel Neis and Professor Maya Barzilai for Visualizing Jewish Materialities (March 20). These, and other, exciting events associated with the Institute theme can be accessed at lsa.umich.edu/judaic/news-events.