Jessica Roda is an anthropologist and ethnomusicologist. She is an Assistant Professor of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. She has long been exposed to diverse settings. Roda grew up in French Guiana, and her family descends from Algeria, France, and Spain (it was not uncommon for her family to backpack across the globe). Her pluralistic childhood shaped her as a person, professor, and scholar. She is passionate about religiosity, languages, and the arts. Roda is fluent in French, English, and Portuguese. Additionally, she can communicate in Spanish, is intermediate in Creole, and is working toward proficiency in Yiddish and Hebrew.
Roda studied classical piano and modern jazz for almost 20 years (Diploma from the Conservatory of Paris, 7e arrondissement), played the flute in orchestras, and performed on the theatrical scene. Her fascination with the arts, travel, technology, and human diversity heavily informed her research. Her domains of expertise and interests include the performing arts, religion, gender, media, international cultural policies, and globalization.
Immersed in the French and the North American schools of anthropology and ethnomusicology, she earned Ph.Ds from Sorbonne University and the University of Montreal. For about ten years, she studied between Paris and Montreal and investigated the political implications of Sephardic and Arab-Jewish music, as well as the UNESCO Convention of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003).
In 2015, Roda started an ethnography of ultra-Orthodox Jewish life in Montreal and New York City, exploring both normative and underground scenes, notably the female artistic ones. Her upcoming book For Women and Girls Only. Reshaping Jewish Orthodoxy Through the Arts in the Digital Age investigates how music and films by ultra-Orthodox and former ultra-Orthodox women allow them to act as social, economic and cultural agents. It views the artistic scene as a space which challenges authority, gender roles and religious identities in the context of decolonizing feminism.
Roda has served as a fellow and scholar in residence at Université de Paris, Université de Tours, McGill University, the Canada Research Chair in Museum and Heritage Studies (Concordia University), the Canada Research Chair in Urban Heritage (University of Quebec in Montreal), UCLA, Columbia University (Heyman Center) and Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil (Department of Anthropology). In 2014, she was selected by the Royal Society of Canada and the Science Council of Japan to participate in the WISET Program (Women in Science, Engineering, and Technology). Her first monograph Se réinventer au présent (PUR 2018) was finalist for J. I. Segal Award for the best Quebec book on a Jewish theme and received the Prize UQAM-Respatrimoni in heritage studies.
She has lived in Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, and the United States. Presently, she splits her time between Washington D.C. and Montreal with her family.