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The Hidden Abode: The Representation of Work in Israeli Culture

Mon, December 17, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Skyline Room

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


Three terms are usually used to define contemporary political cultural critique: gender, race, and class. In the last three decades, the representation of the first two—gender and race—in Israeli culture has been amply explored by critics, be it in Ella Shohat’s interrogation of the representation of ethnicity in Israeli film in her Israeli Cinema, or in Yael Feldman’s work on Israeli women’s fiction in No Room of Their Own. Further studies of related themes, like that of gender or Arab-Jewishness, have also flourished. But things are rather different when it comes to the representation of class, labor, and the capitalist system more generally. As critical themes, class and work feature only very marginally in the work of critics of Israeli culture. The “bourgeoisification” of Israeli society, or the development of certain consumer sensibilities, acting as mere background to what is explored as aesthetic subject matter, in studies by Yaron Peleg and Dan Miron, among others. Needless to say, studies of how class or labor themselves are represented in Israeli culture, directly or indirectly, are entirely absent from the critical landscape.

This panel seeks to begin to remedy this absence, by addressing the way work is represented in multiple mediums and genres of Israeli culture, including visual and plastic arts, architecture, poetry, and fiction. The panel will focus on particular on the post-2008 economic realities of a completely neoliberalized Israel, and how new aesthetic languages and devices are developed to represent both newer and older economic social antagonisms and injustices. As the contributions seek to show, these are registered in Israeli culture in ways that far exceed their overt representation, suggesting ways that class antagonism could be used to develop new critical horizons in Israeli cultural criticism. Among the questions explored are: in what explicit ad implicit ways are work and class represented in Israeli culture? How does culture, sometimes despite itself, speak about the economic contexts in which it is produced? How does art try to resist these economic reality? And how, if at all, does it reproduce them?

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