The University of Wisconsin Press

Anthropology / Jewish Studies


People as Subject, People as Object
Selfhood and Peoplehood in Contemporary Israel
Virginia R. Domínguez

New Directions in Anthropological Writing

"The best ethnography of Israeli Jews, collapsing the boundaries between tradition, culture, and nation. . . . Domínguez ambitiously focuses her fieldwork on processes that form the public discourses of national culture and that objectify and police individual and ethnic experiences through the national collectivity."—Smadar Lavie, Middle East Journal

"This book is fascinating, enlightening, maddening, and disturbing [but] by the end one feels that Domínguez has, in fact, gotten to the bottom of what she convincingly argues is a condition for the very possibility of Israeli society—namely, the definition of peoplehood. . . . The two key concepts with which she deals throughout are 'culture' and 'ethnicity.' She analyzes newspaper accounts for both content and rhetoric or discourse on these subjects, and in addition, examines 'story-telling events' dealing with the lifestyles and situations of various Jewish minority groups—especially the Orientals or Sephardim—who have been only uneasily accommodated in Israeli society in recent years. 'Nationality' is distinguished both from 'religion' and from 'citizenship' in official Israeli usage, and Domínguez tries to analyze what this means for Israel as a polity, and as a community of persons who, in a cultural sense, have very little in common."—Nancie L. Gonzalez, American Anthropologist

"Domínguez conveys much insight into the perception, attitudes, and contradictions of Israeli society. She effectively explains the internal and external boundaries of Israeli peoplehood and does surprisingly well with enormously confusing issues, such as 'who is a Jew?' The discussion of Israeli Independence Day, Sephardic/Ashkenazic ethnicity, and vignettes of theater and storytelling are especially worthy of mention. Her evaluation of the ongoing process of creating an Israeli national identity is outstanding."

Virginia Domínguez is professor of anthropology and director of the Center for International and Comparative Studies at the University of Iowa. She is the author of White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

This book is light blue, white and purple, with several abstract images of heads

December 1989

LC: 89-040254 DS
238 pp.  2 tables

Book icon
Paper $19.95 x
ISBN 978-0-299-12324-6
Shopping cart ADD TO CART
  Review cart contents
Secure checkout


Home | Books | Journals | Events | Textbooks | Authors | Related | Search | Order | Contact

If you have trouble accessing any page in this web site, contact our Web manager.
E-mail: or by phone at 608-263-0733.

Updated July 1, 2011

© 2011, The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System