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Transnational Identities

Women, Art, and Migration in Contemporary Israel

Tal Dekel

Award Winner

Israel and Middle East, Gender, Jewish Studies, Art

Published: November 2016
ISBN: 9780814342503
Pages: 172 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 31 color photographs; 4 black-and white photographs
Published: November 2016
ISBN: 9780814342510
Book Images

Translated originally from Hebrew, Transnational Identities: Women, Art, and Migration in Contemporary Israel offers a critical discussion of women immigrants in Israel through an analysis of works by artists who immigrated to the country beginning in the 1990s. Though numerous aspects of the issue of women migrants have received intense academic scrutiny, no scholarly books to date have addressed the gender facets of the experiences of contemporary women immigrants in Israel. The book follows an up-to-date theoretical model, adopting critical tools from a wide range of fields and weaving them together through an in-depth qualitative study that includes the use of open interviews, critical theories, and analysis of artworks, offering a unique and compelling perspective from which to discuss this complex subject of citizenship and cultural belonging in an ethno-national state. It therefore stands to make a significant contribution to research into women's lives, citizenship studies, global migration, Jewish and national identity and women's art in contemporary Israel.

The book is divided into sections, each of which aims a spotlight on women artists belonging to a distinct groups of immigrants—the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia, and the Philippines—and shows how their artwork reflects various conflicts regarding citizenship and identity-related processes, dynamics of inclusion-exclusion, and power relations that characterize their experiences. Transnational Identities promotes a more nuanced, complex understanding of diversity among women from various groups and even within a specific ethnic group, as well as considering the "common differences" between women from diversified life experiences. To lay the groundwork for an analysis of the themes that recur in their artworks, Tal Dekel briefly discusses the notions of global migration and transnationalism and then examines gender and several other identity-related categories, notably religion, race, and class. These categories underline the complex nexus of overlapping and sometimes contradictory affiliations and identities that characterize migrating subjects in an age of globalization.

Transnational Identities integrates theories from various disciplines, including art history, citizenship studies and critical political theory, gender studies, cultural studies, and migration studies in an interdisciplinary manner that those teaching and studying in these fields will find relevant to their continued research.

Tal Dekel lectures in the Department of Art History and in the National Council of Jewish Women’s Women and Gender Studies Program at Tel Aviv University, where she is also the head of the Women and Gender Forum. Dekel specializes in contemporary art and visual culture, taking a particular interest in gender and transnationalism. She has published extensively in international peer-reviewed journals and is the author of the book Gendered: Art and Feminist Theory.

This book is a pioneering contribution to the critical discussion of migratory narratives in Israel.When I looked at the title I thought to myself that so much has been written about migration; however, once I dived into the book I realized that it is the first scholarly book that addresses the gender facets of contemporary migrant women in Israel through art. By analyzing artworks of migrant women, the book offers a unique and compelling perspective from which to discuss the timely and urgent subject. It therefore makes a significant contribution to research into contemporary issues of transnationalism in Israel, and at the same time serves as a theoretical platform for understanding similar phenomena in other parts of the world.

– Galia Sabar, professor of African and migration studies, Tel Aviv University

Dekel’s pioneering study on contemporary art and migration in Israel is based on in-depth interviews with the artists who are women who emigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, as well as on women ‘foreign workers’ from the Philippines. It makes a unique contribution to scholarship on art and migration, Israel studies, and feminist art history.

– Ruth E. Iskin, author of The Poster: Art, Advertising, Design, and Collecting, 1860s–1900s and Modern Women and Parisian Consumer Culture in Impressionist Painting

With international migration being one of the most critical issues facing the global community in the twenty-first century, Tal Dekel's new book engages in a timely discussion of gender, identity, and diaspora in contemporary Israeli arts and culture. Based on primary research and grounded in post-colonial and transnational theories, Dekel offers compelling case studies that shed light on identity construction in the work of Ethiopian-, Soviet-, and Philippine-born female artists and workers who arrived in Israel in the 1990s. For all of the women Dekel interviewed, the concepts of transnationalism and intersectionality are at the heart of their practice, as they navigate what it means to be Israeli women artists in light of their diverse experiences of gender, class, race, ethnicity, and religion.

– Paula J. Birnbaum, author of Women Artists in Interwar France, Department of Art and Architecture, University of San Francisco

In this rich and profound book, art historian Tal Dekel presents the individual voices and the diverse artistic expressions of women immigrants in a transnational era. Departing from a critical and reflexive feminist point of view, she analyzes the intersectionality of class, race, nationality, and gender in Israel. Her study of the immigration experience and the coping mechanisms of women immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and Ethiopia, and of migrant workers from the Philippines, allows her to transform the stories of immigrants from the private to the political, to challenge many of the categories that we have become accustomed to associating with immigration, and to provide a valuable lesson about global emerging identities and gendered arrangements.

– Hanna Herzog, professor emerita of Sociology, Tel Aviv University

In her meticulously researched study, Tal Dekel offers a fascinating insight into works by women artists in Israel who are from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia, and the Philippines. Revealing their susceptibility to xenophobia and sexism as well as religious and class prejudice, Dekel explores how these artists create works that offer compelling commentaries about these experiences and their transnational identities.

– Brenda Schmahmann, South African Research Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture, University of Johannesburg

  • 2016 Foreword INDIES Book Award - Result: Finalist for Social Sciences