Smadar Lavie’s essay, “Writing Against Identity Politics: An Essay on Gender, Race, and Bureaucratic Pain,” appears in the latest issue of American Ethnologist (Volume 39, Issue 4). The essay focuses on Israel’s single mothers on welfare who are Mizrahi—Jews with origins in the Muslim World. Here is its abstract: Equating bureaucratic entanglements with pain—or what, arguably, can be seen as torture—might seem strange. But for single Mizrahi welfare mothers in Israel, somatization of bureaucratic logic as physical pain precludes the agency of identity politics. This essay elaborates on Don Handelman’s scholarship on bureaucratic logic as divine cosmology and posits that Israel’s bureaucracy is based on a theological essence that amalgamates gender and race. The essay employs a world anthropologies’ theoretical toolkit to represent bureaucratic torture in multiple narrative modes, including anger, irony, and humor, as a counterexample to dominant U.S.–U.K. formulae for writing and theorizing culture.
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Keywords: agency and identity politics, critical race theory, intersectionality, world anthropologies, autoethnography, symbolic anthropology, welfare bureaucracy, single mothers, ethnonationalism, citizenship, Israel–Palestine, Mizrahim