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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Cognitive Perspectives on Israelite Identity
Nestor, Dermot Anthony

New York: T&T Clark, 2010 pp. xii + 276. $130.00

Series Information
Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies, 519


Description: This title presents a vision of Israel as an epistemological rather than an ontological entity; a perspective on the world rather than an entity in it. "Cognitive Perspectives on Israelite Identity" breaks new ground in the study of ethnic identity in the ancient world through the articulation of an explicitly cognitive perspective. In presenting a view of ethnicity as an epistemological rather than an ontological entity, this work seeks to correct the pronounced tendency towards 'analytical groupism' in the academic literature. Challenging what Pierre Bourdieu has called 'our primary inclination to think the world in a substantialist manner', this study seeks to break with the vernacular categories and 'commonsense primordialisms' encoded within the Biblical texts, whilst at the same time accounting for their tenacious hold on our social and political imagination. It is the recognition of the performative and reifying potential of these categories of ethno-political practice that disqualifies their appropriation as categories of social analysis. Because ethnicity is fundamentally a perspective on the world then, a schema for representing and organizing social knowledge, and a frame through which social comparisons are articulated, any archaeological endeavor predicated on the search for an 'ethnic group', and particularly an 'ethnic group' resurrected from the essentializing categories encoded within the pages of the Hebrew Bible, is doomed to failure. Over the last 30 years this pioneering series has established an unrivaled reputation for cutting-edge international scholarship in Biblical Studies and has attracted leading authors and editors in the field. The series takes many original and creative approaches to its subjects, including innovative work from historical and theological perspectives, social-scientific and literary theory, and more recent developments in cultural studies and reception history.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Literature, Methods, Social-Scientific Approaches, Sociology

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Review by Frank H. Polak
Published 3/18/2011
Citation: Frank H. Polak, review of Dermot Anthony Nestor, Cognitive Perspectives on Israelite Identity, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2011).


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