Persia is Everywhere Where Nothing Happens: Imperial Ubiquity and Its Limits in Ezra-Nehemiah – Laura Carlson Hasler
This paper challenges the usefulness of common terms by which analysis of empire in biblical scholarship often takes place: assimilation and resistance. Adapting a formulation from the arts collective, Bernadette Corporation, I suggest the consideration of terms that more adequately express the spatial, temporal, and non-binary ways that this and other ancient Jewish texts imagines the Persian empire. In the first part of my argument, I argue that the borderless ubiquity of Persia is cast in both spatial and transcendent terms. Second, this ubiquity is coupled with Persia’s noteworthy “passivity,” which can be contrasted with Judeans violent activity. I then suggest textual sites where the limits of Persia’s projected ubiquity surface. These sites cannot be adequately described as sites of resistance, but rather serve as more ambivalent loci of imperial faltering, which implicate the returned Judeans as much as they authorize them. These ruptures, moreover, give voice to the way complex desires refuse to cede to actionable political goals. Ultimately, the aim of this paper is to demonstrate alternative and more adequate terms (ubiquity and stagnation) by which the imperial encounter might be represented in Jewish antiquity and beyond.
Empire, Ezra, Nehemiah, Persia, ubiquity.