Women of Babylon: Gender and Representation in Mesopotamia

Women of Babylon: Gender and Representation in Mesopotamia

Zainab Bahrani

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 0415619386

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Representations of sexual difference (whether visual or textual) have become an area of much theoretical concern and investigation in recent feminist scholarship. Yet although a wide range of relevant evidence survives from the ancient Near East, it has been exceptional for those studying women in the ancient world to stray outside the traditional bounds of Greece and Rome.
Women of Babylon is a much-needed historical/art historical study that investigates the concepts of femininity which prevailed in Assyro-Babylonian society. Zainab Bahrani's detailed analysis of how the culture of ancient Mesopotamia defined sexuality and gender roles both in, and through, representation is enhanced by a rich selection of visual material extending from 6500 BC - 1891 AD. Professor Bahrani also investigates the ways in which women of the ancient Near East have been perceived in classical scholarship up to the nineteenth century.

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identity or subjectivity outside of the matrix of power, that can then overthrow its laws, is described by Butler as a fiction of the normative framework itself. The argument thus turns on ‘a temporal trope’ in its concern with whether subversion occurs prior to the imposition of law, or during its reign of authority (Butler 1990: 29). Although Butler sees the notion of sexual identity separable from this matrix of power relations as a utopian fiction produced by the framework itself, she does not

relation to our own area in Near Eastern antiquity. A case in point here is the contemporary concern with subjectivity at the centre of poststructuralism, feminist, masculinist, and queer theories. As scholars of antiquity we should certainly consider the problematics of subjectivity, but we must remember that we can have no access to what we construe as the individual in 25 WOMEN/SEX/GENDER antiquity, beyond our own interpretation of individuality, or of him/her. That is not to say that

itself. In place of a conclusion, Chapter 8 will look at the uses of the image of the Babylonian woman in nineteenth-century European visual arts. Images such as the Victorian British artist Edwin Long’s ‘Babylonian Marriage Market’ and the Belgian symbolist Fernand Khnopff’s ‘Ishtar’ form the focus of this section, which aims to investigate the role that Babylonian women came to play in the European imagination, and how this imaginative picture, in turn, came to have an effect on scholarly

the usurper Uru’inimgina, the last of this group of rulers (c.2350 BC), the household was renamed ‘household of (the goddess) Bau’. In practice, however, this did not have much of an effect on its day-to-day functioning, and it remained an institution in the charge of the ruler’s wife. When it first came to be known to Mesopotamian scholarship, the é-Bau archive was taken as evidence for the development of a theory of the Sumerian temple-city in which the temple or ‘the interest of the deity’

primary (Winter 1987: 189–201). Although Winter sees Enheduanna’s lack of action as a reflection of her lower status as a woman, there is in fact no indication either textual or visual that overseeing the pouring of the libation was not an important act in itself. Furthermore, there are a number of seals carved with scenes of ritual in which the libation pourer is clearly a woman (e.g. Colbow 1991: no. 24; Collon 1982: no. 31; Boehmer 1965: no. 384), indicating that the libation pourer’s gender

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