Barbara Johnson

Barbara Johnson

Emerita Associate Professor and Coordinator, Department of Anthropology
Faculty, School of Humanities and Sciences
Faculty, Jewish Studies

Specialty:Cultural Anthropology, Jewish Studies

As a cultural anthropologist I have focused on comparative Jewish cultures, South Asia, and contemporary Israel, with specializations in religion and ritual, music, folklore, life stories, gender, cultural change and ethnohistory.  During my 16 years of teaching at IC, I offered a variety of courses in the Anthropology Department and also founded and acted as Coordinator for the Jewish Studies Program.  Since my retirement in 2007 I have continued an active research career, for several years as a Visiting Scholar in the South Asia  and Jewish Studies programs at Cornell University, and I regularly present my work at academic conferences.

My research centers on an ancient community of Jews in the state of Kerala, South India - the “Cochin Jews” or "Kochinim", whom I first met in person while I was living and teaching in India in the 1960s.   I’ve devoted more than 45 years to research on their ethnohistory, on changes and continuities in their community life as they migrated to Israel, and on the women’s culture of the community, most recently concentrating on their folk songs.  During these years I’ve made many research trips to Israel as well as India.  In Israel my research has been sponsored by the Jewish Music Research Center and the Ben-Zvi Institute at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Among my publications are an ethnographic life story, Ruby of Cochin: An Indian Jewish Woman Remembers, co-authored with the late Ruby Daniel (Jewish Publication Society, 1995);  a combined CD and book, Oh, Lovely Parrot!: Jewish Women’s Songs from Kerala (The Jewish Music Research Center, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2004); and many articles.   Current  projects include completion of a larger book on Kerala Jewish music for publication by the Jewish Music Research Center in Jerusalem, and finishing articles in progress on different genres of Kerala Jewish women’s songs and on Kerala Jewish Ethnohistory.  Please see my Curriculum Vitae for details. 

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