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A history of the Jewish people from bris to burial, from “muscle Jews” to nose jobs.
Melvin Konner, a renowned doctor and anthropologist, takes the measure of the “Jewish body,” considering sex, circumcision, menstruation, and even those most elusive and controversial of microscopic markers–Jewish genes. But this is not only a book that examines the human body through the prism of Jewish culture. Konner looks as well at the views of Jewish physiology held by non-Jews, and the way those views seeped into Jewish thought. He describes in detail the origins of the first nose job, and he writes about the Nazi ideology that categorized Jews as a public health menace on par with rats or germs.
A work of grand historical and philosophical sweep, The Jewish Body discusses the subtle relationship between the Jewish conception of the physical body and the Jewish conception of a bodiless God. It is a book about the relationship between a land–Israel–and the bodily sense not merely of individuals but of a people. As Konner describes, a renewed focus on the value of physical strength helped generate the creation of a Jewish homeland, and continued in the wake of it.
With deep insight and great originality, Konner gives us nothing less than an anatomical history of the Jewish people.
“The Jewish Body. . . is a tour de force in examining the meanings associated with Jews and their bodies. . . . a good read and a wonderful compilation of materials that deal with the wide range of Jewish bodies, both real and imagined.” —Sander Gilman, Forward
In praise of Unsettled: An Anthropology of the Jews by Melvin Konner
“A poignant and highly accessible account of an ongoing story that transcends all telling.”
–Harold Bloom, author of The Western Canon and Jesus and Yahweh
“Certainly the best one-volume overview of Jewish history and identity available.:
–Sander L. Gilman, author of The Jew’s Body and Jewish Self-Hatred
“This sweeping study of the Jews feels so fresh and alive . . . [It is] nothing less than inspiring.”
–The New York Times Book Review