Abū Saʿīd Ḥalfon b. Menasse Ibn al-Qaṭāʾif served as a clerk of the central Jewish court in Egypt during the years 1100-1138. An extensive dossier of documents related to Ḥalfon has survived in the Cairo Geniza, including hundreds of legal documents, letters from his close family circle, petitions he composed for needy Jews, and fragments of literary works copied in his hand.
As a court scribe, Ḥalfon occupied a pivotal position connecting the Jewish elite, communal institutions, Islamic state, and the Jewish legal tradition to ordinary Jews. As such a middleman, he can serve as an Archimedean point for a study that combines the view from below and the view from above and offers an integrative analysis of law and community of the period.
This project applies Social Network Analysis to the extensive correspondence of Ḥalfon’s circle and legal documents in his hands to visualize and analyze the networks in which he partook. Combining Social Network Analysis with a traditional close reading of letters, quantitative study of court records, and a comparison with other microhistories of Egyptian scribes will offer an unparalleled view of how Jewish law worked in practice and reveal its embeddedness in the social networks of the Jewish community.
Oded Zinger is a PGP aficionado and teaches Jewish history at the Hebrew University.
- Presenter: Oded Zinger
- Moderator and Geniza Lab Live Coordinator: Jessica Parker
Geniza Lab Live
Scribes and Material Texts