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Ethnographic Encounters in Israel

Poetics and Ethics of Fieldwork

Edited by Fran Markowitz

Publication Year: 2013

Israel is a place of paradoxes, a small country with a diverse population and complicated social terrain. Studying its culture and social life means confronting a multitude of ethical dilemmas and methodological challenges. The first-person accounts by anthropologists engage contradictions of religion, politics, identity, kinship, racialization, and globalization to reveal fascinating and often vexing dimensions of the Israeli experience. Caught up in pressing existential questions of war and peace, social justice, and national boundaries, the contributors explore the contours of Israeli society as insiders and outsiders, natives and strangers, as well as critics and friends.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. v-vi

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Editor’s Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-9

Ethnographic Encounters in Israel emerged from a series of conversations that I had with Tamir Erez and Dafna Shir-Vertesh about the paucity of written texts dealing with fieldwork in Israel, and how we might remedy that lack. At first my aim was to compile a Hebrew language collection for use in Israeli universities. But Tamir and...


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pp. ix-x

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Introduction: Edgy Ethnography in a Little Big Place

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pp. 1-20

The essays in this volume offer an experiential perspective on the variety and vitality of life in Israel by focusing on the always challenging, frequently confusing, and sometimes heart-rending dynamics of carrying out anthropological fieldwork there. Fieldwork demands that anthropologists go where they might not ordinarily tread, or...

Part I. Confrontations and Conversions

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pp. 21-35

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1. How Christian Pilgrims Made Me Israeli

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pp. 23-39

It’s almost 6 o’clock and still over 90 degrees outside. I’m guiding a British charismatic ministry through the sites of Jesus’s ministry around the Sea of Galilee. The packed tour bus jiggles and bounces over the patched road on its way back to the hotel. I take the microphone and turn to the group: “Ladies and gentlemen, if you have any...

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2. Mission Not Accomplished: Negotiating Power Relations and Vulnerability among Messianic Jews in Israel

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pp. 40-58

The summer of 2002 began early; it was only May but the humid hot air intertwined with the smoke of the cars left me breathless and sweaty. I was on my way to interview Ruthie, the secretary of a Messianic Jewish congregation I had been studying. From a distance I saw Ruthie, a woman in her forties, dressed in fashionable stonewashed...

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3. Doing Dimona: An Americanist Anthropologist in an Africanized Israel

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pp. 59-75

I never expected to conduct any research in Israel. Even though I first heard about the discipline of anthropology’s ostensible biases against studying “at home” while I was still just an undergraduate (matter-of-fact pronouncements about the ways in which some of the differences between anthropology and sociology pivoted on this...

Part II. State Categories and Global Flows

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pp. 77-91

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4. Seeking Truth in Hip-Hop Music and Hip-Hop Ethnography

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pp. 79-96

It was back in 1997 when a friend, a music promoter and arranger from Tel Aviv, called to tell me about a new CD he described as a pioneering project by a group of local rappers. “We must support them, rasta,” he said with his typical enthusiasm, probably thinking about the radio program I was hosting at that time, where I was...

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5. The State of the Jewish Family: Eldercare as a Practice of Corporeal Symbiosis by Filipina Migrant Workers

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pp. 97-111

On a Saturday in mid-February 2001, I went to visit my parents in Ofaqim, a small town in the southern periphery of Israel. The entrance to the town is via a main road that crosses the town vertically, engaging with the plain landscape of the surrounding desert. It was nearly three o’clock in the afternoon and I drove on the main road that...

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6. Diasporas Collide: Competing Holocausts, Imposed Whiteness, and the Seemingly Jewish Non-Jew Researcher in Israel

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pp. 112-134

In 2008 I began fieldwork in Israel to examine the influence of black popular music on the sense of belonging of Ethiopian Israeli youths, a struggling, racialized segment of the dominant Jewish population. It did not take long to discover that in the process of delineating a research site in Israel, I was being reshaped to fit into the operative...

Part III. Fieldwork to the Point of Worry

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pp. 135-149

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7. Traveling between Reluctant Neighbors: Researching with Jews and Bedouin Arabs in the Northern Negev

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pp. 137-155

The sun has been up for about an hour as I leave the house, bundled in long pants and thick socks, a warm fleece, and a few layers of long-sleeve shirts and a sweater. A headscarf is tucked into my backpack for later. It is February, and the Negev/Naqab desert morning is cold and dry.1 A breeze blows through, but this is gentler than the...

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8. On the Matter of Return to Israel/Palestine: Autoethnographic Reflections

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pp. 156-170

Israel and Palestie have long been sites of sacred pilgrimages, but it is only in the last century that they have also become the sites of “return.” For Jews, it was the return to a homeland that marked a new era; for Palestinians, it was the inability to return that marked theirs. While not all North American Jews or Palestinians with Israeli...

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9. Some Kind of Masochist? Fieldwork in Unsettling Territory

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pp. 171-186

Hannah’s voice is not yet raspy like Trudy’s, the bag lady in Jane Wagner’s 1985 play, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. Standing at her own intersection of “Walk, Don’t Walk,” Hannah is being quiet, busy listening and observing. About to cross into dangerous territory, she feels the fear rising up inside of her....

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10. The Impurities of Experience: Researching Prostitution in Israel

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pp. 187-200

“Do you remember what the shower in my house looks like? The walls are peeling a bit.” “Yes.” “So listen to this. I took a shower one day, and on the wall in the shower, right in front of me, I saw a tiny ant. There are ceramic tiles, and then a very high wall. So the ant is walking on the wall, and she is still far away from me, not bothering me....

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11. Falling in Love with a Criminal? On Immersion and Self-Restraint

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pp. 201-220

June 1982: I was in Jerusalem in the middle of fifteen months of fieldwork trying to figure out “Israeli Jewish society” when Israel invaded Lebanon. Any researcher with experience in Israel or Palestine knows that it is highly likely Israel will be in some kind of war (or occupation or prolonged hostilities) during one’s fieldwork in the region, but...


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pp. 221-225

E-ISBN-13: 9780253008893
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253008565

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 5 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013