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Staying Put: Crossing the Israel–Palestine Border with Gloria Anzaldúa

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Abstract:

SUMMARY

Gloria Anzaldúa writes that the border is an “open wound . . . where the Third World grates against the First and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country—a border culture.” In the case of Euro-Israel, the volatile gender–race–nation South–South coalition among subaltern Arabs is forced on Mizrahi (Oriental, Heb., Jews from non–Yiddish speaking countries) and Palestinian women with Israeli citizenship. None of them wants to be in this “third country,” emerging out of their painful dispossession of lands, languages, and cultures. Anzaldúa's border's imagistic ambiguity is not liberating but, rather, is used by the Ashkenazi (European Jewish) Zionist hegemony as yet another frontier to conquer. The ambiguity invites the projections and misreadings, which enable Palestinian and Mizrahi gendered experiences in the borderlands to be displayed in Israel's Ashkenazi-Zionist centers of power. The borderzones between transnational hyphens connote fluidity, and movement across boundaries. In this essay, I argue that the Mizrahi and Palestinian-Israeli gendered hyphens are what allow subaltern non-European women in the state of Israel to radically stay put in their respective hyphenated identities. Further, staying put is not representational but somatic, and therefore difficult to theorize beyond the bounds of the lived. Writing up the somatic is elusive. Translating this somatism from Hebrew and Arabic to English is even more elusive. The anthropologist has a daunting task of explicating unspeakable experiences that that go beyond discourse. By using multiple different genres of writing in an arabesque manner, she might attempt to capture this unspeakable that hurts straight to the bone.

Keywords: Gloria Anzaldúa; Israel and Palestine; Mizrahi; ethnographic writing; transnational feminism

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1409.2011.01083.x

Affiliations: Fellow, Centro Incontri Umani Ascona

Publication date: 2011-06-01

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