Renowned anthropologist Barbara Myerhoff made waves when she chose to study a very different culture: her own. Early in her career, Myerhoff participated in Huichol Indian peyote rituals and argued that her controversial choice to involve herself in the culture she was observing gave her insights and access that previous studies of the Huichol culture had missed. This experience of involvement eventually led her to studying her own culture, interviewing elderly American Jews. It was a groundbreaking choice in a profession where fieldwork traditionally meant exploring distant, indigenous cultures, while those closer to home remained invisible. Myerhoff’s work on Jewish seniors transformed the study of religion. She uncovered women’s traditions and culture running parallel to male traditions, challenging the idea that religious studies meant examining only the texts of the male elite. Beyond its impact on academia, her work helped early Jewish feminists explore and redefine their religious experience.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Barbara Myerhoff." (Viewed on January 22, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/myerhoff-barbara>.