Esther in Diaspora

Toward an Alternative Interpretive Framework

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In Esther in Diaspora, Tsaurayi Kudakwashe Mapfeka presents a new approach to the book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible. He argues that, whereas previous interpretations have emphasised an association with the Jewish festival of Purim, a theory-nuanced concept of diaspora offers the key for reading Esther. Alongside the relatively new approach of Diaspora Studies, the author makes use of the more traditional analogical reasoning, seeing parallels between the community behind Esther and the Zimbabwean diaspora community in the United Kingdom, of which he is a member. The two-fold methodological application results in an innovative and stimulating reading of the book. Overall, the book reflects a deep awareness not only of issues surrounding Esther but of the broader fields of the study of the Bible and of the ancient Near East.

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Biographical Note

Tsaurayi Kudakwashe Mapfeka, Ph.D. (2017), King’s College London, is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. He is working on several forthcoming articles and book chapter contributions and has already published Empire and Identity Secrecy: A Postcolonial Reflection on Esther 2:10 (2018).

Table of contents

Contents
Acknowledgements

Introduction
 1 The Problems with Esther
 2 The Problem with Purim
 3 The Problem with Genealogy
 4 The Problem with the Imperial Context of Esther
 5 The Road Ahead

1 Interpretive Frameworks and Methodological Strategies
 1 Introduction
 2 The Extant Versions of Esther
 3 Interpretive Frameworks: History, Fiction or Resistance
 4 The Concept of Diaspora in Esther Studies
 5 Methodological Strategies
 6 Summary

2 Foregrounding the Phenomenon of Diaspora in Reading Esther: a Particular Focus on Esther 2:5–6
 1 Introduction
 2 Biblical Criticism and Esther Studies: a Trajectory
 3 Textual Criticism and the Study of Esther
 4 Historical-Critical Methods and the Study of Esther
 5 Re-defining the Centre: Foregrounding a Diaspora Reading
 6 Genealogical Material: Diaspora as the Story’s Kernel
 7 Summary and Implications

3 Subverting Assumptions about a Babylonian-Persian Dichotomy: a Critical Assessment of the Historical Milieu of Esther
 1 Introduction
 2 Taking into Account Alternative Sources of Persian History
 3 The Portrayal of Cyrus in the Light of Biblical Israel’s Royal Ideology
 4 Assumptions about Cyrus and Persia
 5 Applicability of Diaspora Terms to the Community Behind Esther
 6 Conclusion

4 Conceptual, Etymological and Semantic Considerations of the Concept of Diaspora: towards a Theoretical Framework
 1 Introduction
 2 The Discussion in Context
 3 Conceptual, Etymological and Semantic Analysis of Diaspora
 4 The Emerging Theoretical Framework
 5 Summary

5 Analogical and Cartographic Perspectives of Postexilic Jewish Diaspora: Locating the Community behind Esther
 1 Introduction
 2 The Principle of Analogy
 3 Analogical Approach in Reading Esther
 4 Juxtaposing the Domains: Homoiotes Justifying the Analogy Model
 5 Application of a Diaspora Theoretical Framework: Special Focus on Esther 2:5–6
 6 Implications of a Reading Proceeding from a Theoretical Analysis of Diaspora
 7 Summary

Conclusion
 1 Consideration of Dating Esther
 2 Reconfiguring Diaspora Narratives in a Hellenistic Context
 3 Summary of Findings
 4 So What?
 5 Looking beyond this Study
Bibliography
Index

Readership

Scholars of the Megilloth, those interested in socio-literary approaches to Second Temple Studies, and certainly to the growing number of scholars interested in postcolonial and other postmodern discursively-constructed approaches.

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