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Emotion, space, and power: Jerusalem as contested space
The emotionally evocative metaphor of the city Jerusalem as Yhwh’s adulterous wife in Ezekiel 16 is fundamentally spatial. Gender, space, and emotion intrinsically combine to inform the portrayal of the main protagonist Jerusalem: a gendered, personified city who feels. Despite the spatial dimension that underpins this metaphor and informs Ezekiel’s own traumatic experience of displacement, no scholars have attempted to understand the emotional dimensions of Ezekiel 16 through the lens of space. This is surprising given interdisciplinary research that emphasises the inextricable link between space and emotions in the human experience. Space is a vital component of emotional expression, formation, and representation because emotions are embodied, dynamic, and situated (in time and space). Similarly, emotions have an indispensable role in the experience, formation, and representation of space itself. On the one hand, the thesis argues that the power struggle between Jerusalem and Yhwh is a struggle over the contested space of Jerusalem’s body and the city and that, through her representation as a woman with compromised bodily boundaries, Jerusalem is portrayed as a threatening object of disgust. Importantly, Jerusalem’s emotions are in a dynamic relationship with the spaces in the text – they are signified by these spaces, they shift as the constitution of the spaces shifts, and they are shaped by Jerusalem’s use of space. On the other hand, contested space not only features in the struggle between Yhwh and Jerusalem over control of Jerusalem’s body space and the city space, it features in the frequent mentions of foreign places and foreign peoples. Contested space is a feature of Jerusalem’s very identity as a woman “from the land of the Canaanite” – a people with whom Israel engaged in a bitter struggle over land. Jerusalem’s identification as a woman of mixed, non-Israelite heritage who pursues men from foreign nations heightens her portrayal as disgusting by drawing on stereotypes in Ezekiel’s shared cultural tradition that portrayed the foreign Other as sexually promiscuous, idolatrous, and murderous and therefore “morally” impure. Foreign women in particular were framed as a threat to the covenant between Yhwh and his chosen people. By portraying the Judahites as a foreign woman, Ezekiel humiliates and emasculates the exiles and emphasises that their behaviour caused their displacement.