Governmentality and Abuse in the Book of Esther

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Five issues stand out in the Book of Esther: political feasting, inter-sex conflicts, intra-sex competition, genocidal threats, and the absence of God. Central to these problems is the basic tenet of Persian imperialism, for imperial governmentality is linked to the techniques of judicial, disciplinary, and panoptic power as well as the patriarchal power of (ab)using women to ensure the smooth functioning of family and empire. To rule a multiracial regime, the king’s policies can quickly change from racial assimilation to persecution and later strategic integration. From the point of view of the Jews, multiracial encounters often lead to the birth of hybrid identities, ambivalent mimicry, and racial anxiety or pride. Esther’s survival has much to do with her tactful negotiation with her abused state: she adopts a deracialized profile, becomes a beauty queen, and devises a drama-queen persona to save her people because Haman’s intercessory act is deemed by King Ahasuerus to be a case of sexual assault. The ending highlights three responses: the king accumulates more resources, the Jews celebrate their survival, and Esther positions herself as the queen of vigilance and self-governance. The post-traumatic ethos is not about a descent into cognitive chaos but the resolution to organize the grief-stricken collective memory and broker truthful relationships with neighbors, the self, and God.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-208
Number of pages22
JournalPartial Answers
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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