Centered on the opening scene of reading staged by Giorgio Agamben in his study of reading machines, The Open: Man and Animal, this article considers how Agamben’s own messianic reading of an illuminated page from a medieval Ashkenazi Bible (Biblioteca Ambrosiana MSS B 30–32) erases the entangled biopolitical histories of medieval Ashkenazi Jews and their Christian sovereigns. What happens if we read the distinctive animal-headed Jews peopling medieval Ashkenazi manuscripts of Bibles and Haggadot dated to the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, not in a messianic mode but in the temporal mode of biopolitical bare life? What is the temporal structure of precarious life? Furthermore, how does this Ashkenazi figural tradition of animal-headed Jews point to forms of resistance to the biopolitics of medieval Christendom? How is messianic theory now unconsciously entangled in modes of temporality of precarious life, then?

You do not currently have access to this content.