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Legal Resistance and Non-Compliance in Babylonian Talmudic Sources

Mon, December 17, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Federal 1 Complex

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


The panel offers three vantage points on depictions of women’s resistance, non-compliance, and refusal in legal contexts within the Babylonian Talmud. The papers address different source material: brief adjudicatory narratives, legal discussions of the non-compliant wife (MOREDET), and legal texts about sexual coercion and consent. Altogether, the papers explore how strategies of refusal and non-compliance offered women a modicum of choice within legal frameworks that were not always designed to accommodate or protect them. However, they also variously approach and complicate the category of “resistance.” Pratima Gopalakrishnan’s paper examines the figure of the non-compliant wife, but uses the highlighted moment of refusal as an entry point into the much more normalized economies of obligations within marriage. Lynn Kaye’s paper examines brief adjudicatory narratives that depict women and men refusing judgments, often ones they had themselves sought. The narratives depict a variety of avenues for non-compliance, including trickery, retaliation, argumentation, protest, ignoring and leaving town, and their dramatic features argue for greater scholarly attention to this type of Bavli narrative. Aviva Richman’s paper examines Bavli SUGYOT about sexual coercion and martyrdom and employs text criticism and source criticism to expose tensions regarding the gendered nature of how legal compliance is constructed and contested in these cases.

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