Queer, Crip Zionist History? The Not-So-Strange Case of Jessie Sampter

Queer, Crip Zionist History? The Not-So-Strange Case of Jessie Sampter
September 13, 2023
– September 13, 2023
4:00 pm
Weaver 102

A lecture by Professor Sarah Imhoff, Indiana University

Sarah Imhoff holds the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Chair and is a Professor in Religious Studies and the Borns Jewish Studies Program at Indiana University. She is broadly interested in religion and the body. Her research asks questions about how bodies and their attributes, such as gender, race, and ability, shaped and are shaped by religion. Underwriting many of her research projects are questions about how embodiment makes religious meaning, and how religious discourse makes bodies. Her first book, Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism, was published by Indiana University Press in 2017. She holds a Ph.D. in the History of Judaism from the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Professor Imhoff’s current research project is a study of religion and the body, centering on Jessie Sampter, an early twentieth-century American Zionist. But Sampter’s own life and body hardly matched typical Zionist ideals: while Zionism celebrated the strong and healthy body, Sampter spoke of herself as “crippled” from polio and plagued by weakness and sickness her whole life; while Zionism applauded reproductive (women’s) bodies, Sampter never married or bore children—in fact, she wrote of homoerotic longings and had same-sex relationships we would consider queer. So how did a queer, “crippled” woman become a leading voice of American Zionism, and why has history largely overlooked her? This microhistory explains how we make of a Zionist whose embodied experiences did not conform to Zionist ideals— and suggests that this conflict between embodiment and religious thought was far from unique in American religious experience.

This will be a hybrid event. If you’d like to join us on zoom, you can register here.

Co-sponsored by Jewish Studies and the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies