Smadar Lavie

smadar.lavie [at]
Beatrice Bain Research Group, UC Berkeley
Appointment Dates:
(Aug 21, 2014 – May 15, 2015)
Research Project:
Crossing Borders, Staying Put: Mizrahi Feminism, Palestine, and the Racial Formations of the Israeli State
This project is a book of essays focusing on the relationships that exist in the Arab Israeli borderlands among Mizrahi (Easterners, Orientals, Hebrew) feminists, Ashkenazi (European Jewish) feminists, Israel’s Mizrahi majority and the state’s Ashkenazi-dominated regime. It is beyond the scope of this project to provide a detailed analysis of Palestinian feminisms. These will be discussed in the context of their complicated relationship with Israel’s Jewish feminisms. The project describes and analyzes the ways that the intersections of religion, gender, race and class interplay with the logjam of the Middle East Peace Process. This interplay serves as the building blocks for the lived experience of Mizrahi women’s everyday. The paradoxical fusion of anti-racist activism and communal Right wing politics delineates the contours of Mizrahi feminism. This quandary thus transcends the constructivist, coalitional identity politics typical of US-European Feminisms of Color or Third World feminisms. To function in the political, cultural and racial Arab-Israeli borderlands with efficacy, Mizrahi feminists often deploy foundational strategies. These, in turn, alienate them from the feminist fabric of the Arab World or the Global South, yet work to improve the welfare of their disenfranchised Israeli constituencies.
Smadar Lavie is an anthropologist, author, and activist specializing in the anthropology of Egypt, Israel and Palestine, with special emphasis on issues of race, gender and religion. She is a visiting professor at the Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century, University College Cork. She received her doctorate in Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley (1989) and spent nine years as Assistant and Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis.  Lavie authored The Poetics of Military Occupation (UC Press, 1990), receiving the 1990 Honorable Mention of the Victor Turner Award for Ethnographic Writing, and Wrapped in the Flag of Israel: Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture (Berghahn 2014). She also co-edited Creativity/Anthropology (Cornell UP, 1993) and Displacement, Diaspora, and Geographies of Identity (Duke UP, 1996). Lavie won the American Studies Association’s 2009 Gloria Anzaldúa Prize for her article, “Staying Put: Crossing the Palestine-Israel Border with Gloria Anzaldúa,” published in Anthropology and Humanism (2011). In 2013, she won the “Heart at East” Honor Plaque for lifetime service to Mizraḥi communities in Israel-Palestine.