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The Emergence of Feminism in the Mizrahi Ashkenazi Discourse

Monday, February 6, 2012
12:00 AM
2015 Tisch Hall

Henriette Dahan-Kalev, Ben Gurion University

In this talk Dahan-Kalev provides a critical analysis of the emergence of Mizrahi feminist movement in Israel. Beginning with the immigration of liberal feminist activists in the 1970s, she moves through the development of feminist consciousness and its impact on Israeli politics and society, to the formation of a distinct Mizrahi feminist movement twenty years later. Within her new politico-historical context of “second order discourse,” she reconsiders concepts such as “sisterhood” and “solidarity,” “Arabness” and “color.”

The idea of women's liberation was imported to Israel in the 1970s. Liberal feminist activists immigrated to Israel following the 1967 war and presented to the Israeli women the western version of the women's lib. Torn in social ethnic conflicts between Mizrahim and Ashkenazim the women activist dragged the ethnic tension into the feminist field. Excluded and marginalized systematically over more than 20 years Mizrahi feminism finally rebelled in the mid-1990s and formed a distinct Mizrahi feminist agenda and movement. This talk outlines the historical, social, political and ideological background in which Mizrahi feminism developed. Slogans such as sisterhood and solidarity in their Israeli feminist version will be discussed and the dilemmas that arise from “tokenism” and the purportedly universalist feminist agenda. The Mizrahi feminist agenda and its ideological framework are critically reviewed as well.

Dr. Henriette Dahan Kalev is a political scientist, the founder and the first Director of the Gender Studies Program at the Ben Gurion University. During this academic year she is a visiting scholar at the Taub Center and The Kevorkian Center at New York University.