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The Body of the Nation: Terrorism and the Embodiment of Nationalism in Contemporary Israel

From: Anthropological Quarterly
Volume 75, Number 1, Winter 2002
pp. 37-62 | 10.1353/anq.2002.0022



Israel is a country whose nationalism arguably hinges on a military conflict routine. In this paper I illustrate how national identity is inscribed in the Israeli body, and how "the body of the nation" arises following critical events such as terrorist bombings. Building on a discursive analysis of "bodyTalk" in the media representation of terrorist attacks, the article focuses on the non-discursive management of concrete bodies following such attacks. I focus on practices that can be subsumed under "body identification" and take place in the National Institute of Forensic Medicine. The data is based on interviews and observations conducted in the Institute during 1996-2000, and supplemented by narrative analysis of media texts. "Body Identification" and "bodyTalk" are thus presented as complementary aspects of the discourse of collective, national identity in contemporary Israel. It is argued that Israeli and Jewish identities, although sometimes discursively (politically) separated, are still closely tied in more fundamental, nonverbal practices of body identification [nationalism, terrorism, the body, forensic medicine, Israel].

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