(In)between Cultures: An Ethnographic-Informed Study of Literacy Practices in the Dallas/fort Worth Area Messianic Community

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


Literature and Languages

Date of Award

Summer 2017


In this dissertation I explore the space and "situatedness" of the Messianic Jewish Community in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. As a study conducted in the field and informed by ethnographers and new literacy scholars such as Brandt, Duffy, Sunstein, Chiseri-Strater, Adkins, Heath, Dunbar-Odom, Linquist, and Carter, I soon realized that just as ethnography has roots in anthropology, without a very thorough understanding of the ancient, middle, and modern historical situation and the literacy practices involved in the preservation of the Messianic Jewish Community, indeed, the Jewish people as a whole, I could not hope to understand modern literacy practices with ethnographical effects within and without the synagogue. As it follows, modern Jewish literacy is directly reflected and derived from ancient texts. Therefore, within the scope of ethnographic research the reader will find a greater than average portion of the study directed toward the historical and anthropological analysis of the community, but without which the Jewish story cannot be told, and if told, as so often has happened, could be but little understood. Although this study does not seek to redress the oppression the Jewish people have endured over the course of history, this study does demonstrate how the fortitude of a people faced with genocide numerous times led to the preservation of Hebrew written discourse and oral liturgical literacy practices whereby the modern Hebrew language would be revived. Several factors mitigated the degree of decomposition and reconstruction that Hebrew underwent; these will be discussed later in the dissertation. However, by extending the lens of ethnography into affinity spaces as a quantitative and qualitative outlet for student writing and research we can see where the corpus of Hebrew was encapsulated in liturgy and subsequently brought to life through literacy. Thus, Hebrew literacy comes full circle, from literary suppression, to literacy as an agent of the formation of the nation of Israel but also, literacy as an agent of support to the Diaspora (those Jews who live outside the nation of the Israel).Those literacy practices, specifically the narrative, provided the lifeline to the corpus of Hebrew, whose voice was silence, whose discourse community wheezed out only a series of whispers, clandestine texts that moved through ancient caverns during the passage of centuries until the body of Hebrew texts was resuscitated, not in the likeness of Shelley's Frankenstein or Pygmalion's Galatea, but in the likeness of themselves, a nation of individuals, who are a reflection of ancient and modern dynamics, mystically woven together and given voice within a discourse community.


Tabetha Adkins

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature