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Identity, Religion, and the State: Haredi Politics and Social Change in Israel

MUNRO, HEATHER,LOUISE (2021) Identity, Religion, and the State: Haredi Politics and Social Change in Israel. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis is about religion and the state. The ethnography is based on fieldwork conducted in Israel with Haredi (ultra-orthodox) women, mainly in the performing arts community and in the women’s rights activist groups. The thesis demonstrates that Haredi identity formed as a resistance to secularising forces, and through negotiations with secular power structures and the state became an entwined political-religious identity. I argue that through constant negotiations of religious ethics with secular values and the state of Israel, Haredim are picking apart their political identities from their religious ethics, and these choices insinuate implications for the nature of the role of religion and Jewish identity in the state of Israel in the future. I place women at the centre of this negotiation, and attribute much of these changes to the agency of Haredi women, with a wealth of ethnographic examples.

This thesis contributes to understandings of the relationship between the secular state and religion by suggesting that the state may expect a specific type of religious citizen, and that in order for religious minorities like Haredim to resist the state, more stringent observance is produced. I suggest that not only are religious citizens capable of critique, that they critique the state through religious choices, and critique their own societies in ways which are designed to produce more resilient forms of religious ethics and community. The agency which is used is pious in its ethics, but it allows for the inclusion of certain secular forms of knowledge in order to bolster religious life. The thesis also offers an exploration of religious women’s feminism which applies liberal secular feminist goals to parts of life outside the direct dictates of religion, and in doing so curtails the authority of patriarchal religious leaders in a religiously ethical way. Furthermore, this thesis explores the experiences and contributions of Sephardi and Mizrahi Haredim, and discusses them as central to political and social change in the Haredi world.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Anthropology; religion; state; government; politics; identity; Israel; ultra-orthodox; Jew; Jews; Judaism; Jewish studies; gender; women; agency; piety; arts; activism; secular; secularism; secular studies; religious studies; West Bank; settlements; green line; extremism; terrorism; dance; theatre; music; school; education; ba'al teshuvah; ba'alei teshuvah; Haredi; Hasidic
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:25 Oct 2021 14:15

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