History is only recently opening up to previously marginalized groups: it is only just now that women’s history is being explored across different historical fields. Eve Krakowski in Coming of Age in Medieval Egypt: Women’s Adolescence, Jewish Law, and Ordinary Culture (Princeton University Press, 2017) uses Cairo Geniza documents, and Jewish and Islamic legal writings to bring us the stories of Jewish women’s adolescence in Fatimid and Ayyubid Egypt and Syria (c. 969–1250). She looks at how women functioned in a patronage culture, how women moved within society prior to being married and how that changed after becoming a wife. We talk to her about how to think of women in the pre-modern world, how her book fits into the pre-existing scholarship, what family history means in the Islamic Eastern Mediterranean, how the Cairo Geniza looms large in her work, and what her approach is to her research.
Eve Krakowski is Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Studies and the Program in Judaic Studies at Princeton University. She is a social historian of the medieval Middle East, interested especially in family life and in how law and religion worked in mundane, everyday settings. Her research focuses on urban Jews in Fatimid and Ayyubid Egypt (969–1250), a population who accidentally left behind some of the most detailed and varied sources about ordinary life to have survived the premodern world: the Cairo Geniza documents. She earned her BA, MA, and PhD at the University of Chicago’s Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department Before going to Princeton, she spent two years as a Blaustein post-doctoral fellow in the Program in Judaic Studies at Yale University, and one year as a Rabin post-doctoral fellow in the Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies at Columbia University. She has an ACLS Grant and a NEH grant, with Marina Rustow.
Nadirah Mansour is a graduate student at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies working on the global intellectual history of the Arabic-language press. She tweets @NAMansour26 and produces another Middle-East and North Africa-related podcast: Reintroducing.