The Art of Bracketing Empire Out and Creating Parallel Worlds: The Case of Late Persian Yehud
Keywords:Empire and local intellectual elites, subaltern elites, Yehud, Persian Period Judah, Ramat Rahel, History of Ancient Israel, social memory
The goal of this article is to draw attention to a seemingly strange, generative pattern that, at times and under certain conditions, has shaped socially shared worlds of imagination among subordinate groups within imperial or hierarchically asymmetric structures of power, especially among “retainer” groups who saw themselves as a “cultural elite” of the subordinate group. I am referring to a generative pattern that in a significant number of such groups, across time and space, has led to constructions of worlds of imagination, and vicarious participation in them through readings or other social acts of imagination that involved “bracketing the empire out.” The article focuses on the world of the literati of late Persian Yehud/Judah, and especially the bracketing out of Ramat Rahel, the most obvious and monumental, explicit, imperial site in the province, but a number of various examples from diverse historical and geographical contexts are also brought to bear to make a point that this is a well-instantiated pattern. The article then concludes with a discussion of what was often gained by acts of imagination and memory involved in bracketing out “empire” and under which circumstances such acts tended to be historically likely.
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