1 August 2022
Photo: Kusakabe Kimbei
'Japanese girls writing, reading and sewing (1880s)' by the Japanese photographer Kusakabe Kimbei (1841-1934). Courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Presented through the NGV Foundation by Thomas Dixon, Member, 2001.
This winter semester, a lecture series at CSMC explores the role of women in various manuscript cultures. In ten lectures, experts from different fields ask why and how the contribution of women to these cultures has often been obscured and how women were nevertheless able to assert their influence.
Judaism has strict rules for the production of Torah scrolls. To this day, the Halakha determines that the scrolls used in liturgical practices must have been written by hand. But not by just any hand. Torah scrolls produced by women are considered unsuitable for use in the synagogue. Accordingly, the profession of Torah scribe has always been reserved for men in Jewish tradition. Only in the recent past has this tradition been questioned more frequently and the number of female Torah scribes is growing. Meanwhile, the debate over whether the writings they produce are ‘ritually pure’ continues.
This is just one of many examples of how the role of women has been suppressed in various manuscript cultures, or made invisible where women did appear as writers of manuscripts. The lecture series ‘Between Invisibility and Autonomy: Negotiating Gender Roles in Manuscript Cultures’, which is taking place at CSMC this winter semester, explores this phenomenon from different perspectives and with the help of diverse case studies, from ancient Assyria and Egypt to medieval Japan and Central Europe and on to today’s Thailand and Northern Africa . In ten lectures, experts from different fields will ask, among other things, whether women wrote, what they wrote, what expectations their writing activities were subject to – and whether and to what extent they were able to subvert these expectations and create spheres of intellectual autonomy for themselves in male-dominated scholarly milieus.
The lecture series is organised by Eike Großmann and Johanna Seibert. Starting on 24 October, it will take place in hybrid format every Monday from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Registration for the lectures is open to everyone who is interested. Further information and a detailed overview of all dates and topics are available on the event’s website.