Pnina Motzafi-Haller's insightful new book unpacks the meanings of being, rather than becoming, Mizrahi. Inspired by subaltern studies, the author invests her utmost efforts to let the women of Yeruham speak, at times against theories of liberal feminism itself, knowing full well that the reconstruction of their voices is always partial and incomplete.

Motzafi-Haller chose a very particular space for her explorations of gendered Mizrahi identities, the development town of Yeruham, which was established as a transit camp in 1951. Within this mostly Mizrahi and North African space, she focuses on the life narratives of five women. Her inquiries are primarily informed by her desire to break the traditional power dynamics between herself, a Mizrahi woman who “made it” in the Israeli academe, and the women whose stories she seeks to tell and understand.

To her, these women are no mere informants, but protagonists whose experiences teach her, and us,...

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