An Experimental Case Study

There’s a timely project — happening now, right before our eyes — that someone in the study of religion could (should?) tackle, concerning the strategic use of origins tales in the present — not just that, but the self-beneficial way in which groups choose to use and sanction them (or simply ignore them).

For, with the new US embassy opening in Jerusalem, it’s not difficult to find people in the media and online advocating for Israeli rights to the land based on the biblical tale of their ancestors occupying the region.

For instance, consider the 2:00 point of the US ambassador’s recent interview:

(If the embedded audio didn’t load, listen here.)

The quote of interest to us is the following:

Now, the interesting thing is that, as per the Tweet at the outset of this post, this is precisely the argument — though lacking reference to a specifically biblical precedent, of course — used by people on this continent (and on others continents as well, to be sure) whose own ancestors predate the arrival of Europeans; but, as should be obvious, such arguments are more than likely not cited by nation-states’ ambassadors in support of those people’s repatriation (or even reparation) causes.

So here we have a nice little experimental case study, already set up for us, to examine the manner in which different groups, which have different interests and different placements on the continuum of power and privilege, are (or are not) able to use origins tales to accomplish their desired work in the present.

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