American Ethnologist

Writing against identity politics: An essay on gender, race, and bureaucratic pain

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ABSTRACT

Equating bureaucratic entanglements with pain—or what, arguably, can be seen as torture—might seem strange. But for single Mizrahi welfare mothers in Israel, somatization of bureaucratic logic as physical pain precludes the agency of identity politics. This essay elaborates on Don Handelman's scholarship on bureaucratic logic as divine cosmology and posits that Israel's bureaucracy is based on a theological essence that amalgamates gender and race. The essay employs a world anthropologies’ theoretical toolkit to represent bureaucratic torture in multiple narrative modes, including anger, irony, and humor, as a counterexample to dominant U.S.–U.K. formulae for writing and theorizing culture.

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