David Kaden

PRESENTER: David Kaden, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religion

TITLE: The Unstable Legal Identity of Jews/Judeans in the Roman World and the Shifting Legal System in Postcolonial Hawaii

ABSTRACT: Scholars of early Judaism have begun to recognize that Jewish identity took shape in antiquity in the context of external imperial pressure. In the late Roman republican and early imperial periods, several Jewish cultural practices were authorized by emperors, governors, local city councils, and the Roman senate; however, the nature of Roman law at the time meant that such practices were not legally secure. This uncertainty suggests that Jewish legal identity was likewise insecure. Similarly, in 19th century Hawaii, American law was replacing the indigenous legal system, resulting in a shift in indigenous legal identity. This paper draws from the relatively new field of legal anthropology to compare the clash of legal systems both in imperial Rome between Jews and Romans, and also in colonial Hawaii between indigenous groups and Americans: Jewish legal identity is being shaped in the former; Hawaiian legal identity is shifting in the latter.