top of page

Jessica Roda is an anthropologist and ethnomusicologist and serves as an Assistant Professor of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. She has long been exposed to diverse settings. Her upbringing in French Guiana, with familial roots in Algeria, France, and Spain, cultivated a deep appreciation for diverse cultures and experiences (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. Fluent in French, English, and Portuguese, with additional proficiency in Spanish and Creole, she continues to explore languages and cultures, currently working on mastering Yiddish and Hebrew.

Roda's engagement with the arts, including nearly two decades of studying classical piano and modern jazz, as well as orchestral flute performances and theatrical engagements, informs her research interests. Her academic pursuits span 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). The culmination of this research was published in her first monograph Se réinventer au présent (PUR 2018), that 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, many other scholarly articles in French and English.

In her recent ethnographic study, Roda explored ultra-Orthodox Jewish life in Montreal and New York City, particularly focusing on women's artistic expressions. Her 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. With this book, Roda provides the first trans-local ethnography of North America's ultra-Orthodox Jewish female art scene, offering an in-depth look into a secluded religious and artistic world and an exclusive window into alternative forms of economic, social, and cultural women’s agency. For this research, she was awarded the Cashmere Award from the AJS Women’s Caucus (2021) and the Hadassah Brandeis Institute Research Award (2021).


Roda has held positions as a fellow and scholar in residence at various institutions worldwide, including 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), Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil (Department of Anthropology), the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies (University of Pennsylvania), and the University of Hannover. Additionally, from 2022 to 2024, she served as the president-elect of the Canadian Association for Traditional Music and currently holds the role of co-chair of the Society for Ethnomusicology’s Special Interest Group for Jewish Music.

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 son.


bottom of page