This study will consider the materiality of the Jedaniah collection from Elephantine through the lenses of process theory of identity and temporal-spatial discourse. The Jedaniah collection is composed of ten Aramaic documents, spanning at least twenty years in the mid-fifth century BCE. The documents include copies of letters sent and received by members inside of the “Jewish” community as well as Persian-backed authority figures. Since these texts were discovered in 1907, many scholars have discussed their content in relation to their “Jewish” themes, but few have questioned the theoretical frameworks employed for examining the material nature of the documents. A methodological framework will be presented that sets process theory of identity in conversation with Thomas Tweed’s temporal-spatial theory. Process theory of identity has developed in the context of post-colonial discourse in order to explore how colonialized communities construct hybrid, dynamic identities in response to the internalized experience of colonialization. The works of Jon L. Berquist, Christiane Karrer-Grube, and Katherine E. Southwood, in particular, suggest that both the rule of the Persian Empire over the community at Elephantine and the broader inter-cultural interactions in this sub-province of the Persian Empire should be examined through a lens that accounts for the dynamics of imperial power and the hybridity of process identity common to colonized communities. Moreover, it is appropriate to consider temporal-spatial movement in the Persian Empire as it is reflected and developed through the material artifacts of the Aramaic missives in the Jedaniah collection, since a missive by nature is a temporally-delayed text sent between geographically separated communities. The result of this missive communication is an imperially-structured distal community discourse, which develops over time in a network of spatially removed community nodes and authorities. Tweed’s analysis of space as differentiated, kinetic, interrelated, generated, and generative is used in this study as a productive means of analyzing these Aramaic letters as texts that actively construct the identity of this colonized group across space and time. In addition, analysis in light of process theory of identity and temporal-spatial theory will shed light on the challenges of this community’s debated “Jewish” identity.
Cleath, Lisa J., "Colonial Identity In The Jedaniah "Archive" At Elephantine" (2019). Faculty Publications - George Fox School of Theology. 392.