Restrictions imposed on women in Mediterranean societies both past and present are often understood to reflect a gendered model of “honor and shame” that conditions men’s status on their female relatives’ sexual purity. This talk will use legal documents from the Cairo Geniza, an enormous corpus of everyday papers preserved in a synagogue in Cairo, to examine why and how Jews in medieval Egypt limited women’s movements—and to argue that this uniquely well-documented population understood gendered shame more as an economic than a sexual problem.
Eve Krakowski is an assistant professor of Near Eastern Studies and Judaic Studies at Princeton University. She studies the social history of the medieval Middle East, mainly through documents preserved in the Cairo Geniza. Her work to date has focused on gender, kinship, and rabbinic legal practice among Jews in Fatimid and Ayyubid Egypt. Her first book, tentatively titled Coming of Age in Medieval Egypt: Young Women and Society among the Jews of the Cairo Geniza, is forthcoming with Princeton University Press.