Dr.  Magdalena Janosikova


Areas of specialization:

Late Medieval and Early Modern Cultural History of Central and Eastern Europe, Jewish History, Practice Turn & Material Turn


Areas of competence:

History of Medicine, Science and Technology; Cultural History of the Body; Medieval and Early Modern Intellectual History; History of Knowledge & Book History.


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I am a historian of medicine and the body, taking an interest in the cultures of health among Europe’s minorities—the Jews in particular—in the early modern period. I received my PhD in 2020 from Queen Mary, University of London, and I spent two years as a postdoctoral research fellow at the ERC-funded project “Jewish Translation and Cultural Transfer in Early Modern Europe” at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

My dissertation “Composing Hebrew Medical Literature in the Sixteenth Century: Medicine in the Life and Work of Eliezer Eilburg” examines the transformation of the medical occupation in sixteenth-century Central Europe from the perspective of an Ashkenazi Jew. It reassesses the impact of the university on Jewish physicians north of the Alps and reframes the use of early modern Hebrew printed books in the research dedicated to the history of medicine. Analysing the imprints of medical practice in Hebrew and Yiddish medical writing in my further work, I have shown that even in the process of literary translation from non-Jewish languages (such as Latin and German) into Jewish ones (Hebrew and Yiddish), Jewish translator-physicians prioritised the applicability of knowledge over its theoretical reproduction, thus acting as mediators of bodily practices not only across the religious cultures but also across the regional cultures. The latter subject today will stand at the heart of my second monograph.

Over the course of the fellowship at the Polonsky Academy, I will examine the relations between body and environment among Ashkenazi Jews between 1450 and 1700. Hebrew and Yiddish recipes, advice literature, and legal materials, construed as action-driven narratives, offer a unique window into the perception of the materiality of one’s body and the surrounding space. My project will investigate how this relationship kept changing through the centuries to identify the commonality of practice across the majority-minority axis and uncover the processes of its differentiation.


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