I am a scholar of Jewish culture and history, focusing especially on the medieval and early modern periods, and with a particular interest in Jewish communities in the Islamic world.
I completed my PhD in Jewish History and Museum Studies at the University of Minnesota in 2020. I also have an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Toronto, and a BA in Anthropology, Classics, and Religion from Brandeis University (summa cum laude).
My academic interests include Jewish art and material culture, inter-religious contact and interfaith relations, manuscript illumination and early modern printing, magic and demonology, the Sephardi diaspora, and representing religion in museums. Learn more about my published research ›.
I have taught courses on Jewish life and literature, Jewish-Muslim relations, and global and Middle Eastern history in a variety of settings, and I have lectured widely to academic and community audiences around the world.
I am currently working on two major academic projects:
- a monograph, based on my dissertation, of Jewish book culture in early modern North Africa. Examining the lifecycle of the book, from production (whether in manuscript or print) to distribution and circulation in reading communities, I highlight how studying the Jewish book as both a material and social object illuminates the encounter between the world of a text and the world of its readers.
- a interdisciplinary study of the movement of Torah scrolls between Jewish and Christian communities. Bridging the fields of History, Anthropology, Religious Studies, and Museum Studies, I explore how the Torah scroll as a material object acts as a stage for articulating ideas about Jews and Judaism, from the earliest debates between Jews and Christians in late antiquity to evangelical collectors in contemporary America.
A Rainbow Thread
My first book, A Rainbow Thread: An Anthology of Queer Jewish Texts from the First Century to 1969 (Philadelphia: Print-o-Craft Press, 2019), collects 120 primary sources for the study of LGBTQ Jewish history, with introductions and extensive bibliography. It was awarded the 2020 Reference Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries, and the 2020 Anthology Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation.
Calligraphy and Art
I am also a Hebrew calligrapher and book artist.
To see examples of my work, visit https://siennajewisharts.com.