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ABSTRACT

On the basis of an ethnographic analysis of the state-run Jewish conversion project in Israel, I address the question of how bureaucrats come to know the subjects they serve. By analyzing how state agents construct the bureaucratic encounter with converts as a dramaturgical exchange, I theorize performance as an institutional mechanism through which bureaucratic knowledge is produced. The notion of “dramaturgy” sheds light not only on the everyday practices of state governmental power but also on the fragile, collaborative dynamics that underwrite the bureaucratic encounter. Such an analysis offers to complicate the notion of “power/knowledge” so often associated with bureaucratic institutions. [bureaucracy, ethnography of the state, Israel, passing, performance, power/knowledge, religious conversion]