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Birthing the Nation

Birthing the Nation: Strategies of Palestinian Women in Israel

Rhoda Ann Kanaaneh
with a Foreword by Hanan Ashrawi
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 300
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  • Book Info
    Birthing the Nation
    Book Description:

    In this rich, evocative study, Rhoda Ann Kanaaneh examines the changing notions of sexuality, family, and reproduction among Palestinians living in Israel. Distinguishing itself amid the media maelstrom that has homogenized Palestinians as "terrorists," this important new work offers a complex, nuanced, and humanized depiction of a group rendered invisible despite its substantial size, now accounting for nearly twenty percent of Israel's population. Groundbreaking and thought-provoking,Birthing the Nationcontextualizes the politics of reproduction within contemporary issues affecting Palestinians, and places these issues against the backdrop of a dominant Israeli society.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92727-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Hanan Ashrawi

    As I sit in my home in Ramallah, the sights, sounds, and smells of the Israeli attacks bombard my senses: helicopters, bombs, bullets, gas. The conflict that shapes this book is sadly alive and indeed booming louder than ever. News broadcasts around the world almost daily report the rising death toll. This sinister numerical game, whereby Palestinian victims of Israeli live fire are daily given asxnumbers killed andynumbers wounded, reduce our humanity to a series of abstractions. The victims’ names, identities, dashed hopes, and shattered dreams are nowhere mentioned. Absent too are the grief and anguish...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Introduction: Placing
    (pp. 1-22)

    Jamili gets pregnant. She is going to have a fourth child because “four is the perfect sized family.” Her husband hopes for a new construction contract that will allow him to squeeze all of the child’s “needs” into the budget. Jamili’s friend and neighbor Latifi describes her as still “a bit primitive”: “She still thinks the role of women is primarily as breeders.” Jamili’s nurse is upset with her because Jamili is over 35, and she warns her: “You better do all the tests I send you to, or else.” Her mother hopes it’s a boy who will “raise our...

  7. ONE Babies and Boundaries
    (pp. 23-80)

    What is the significance of population and reproduction in thinking, creating, and sustaining the Israeli nation-state? To answer that question I first explore the connections between demography and modern nationalism and present population policies as technologies of power intrinsic to recent conceptions of the nation-state, ones with powerful race, class, and gender implications. Using this theoretical framework, I reflect on the history of political arithmetic in the development of the state of Israel specifically, as well as in the growth of Palestinian nationalism without a state apparatus. With the Galilee in mind, I demonstrate how imaginings of the nation attempt...

  8. TWO Luxurious Necessities
    (pp. 81-103)

    Jamil, who owns a falafel store, said his seven children are a thorn in Israel’s side. But he also told me he bought a leather couch for 11,000 shekels (roughly U.S.$3,000) because he saw Israeli government officials sitting on one like it on television.

    Many Palestinians in the Galilee resist Israeli domination but also express awe for Israel’s technological superiority (as well as that of Israel’s financial backer, the United States). Few dispute this fact or its importance. Some even go so far as to accept Israel’s argument that the state has “developed” the Arabs in Israel, and consider themselves...

  9. THREE Fertile Differences
    (pp. 104-166)

    When I asked my old friend Fadya how some of the girls we had gone to school with were doing, she told me that many of them had married upon graduation and had several children. She called themprimitivim,a Hebrew word derived from the English “primitive.” My elderly aunt who had nine children herself said that people no longer have large families because life has “advanced”: “Before we didn’t know anything. But now only those who are wild keep on having a lot of children, living by their instincts.” Lamis, 23, said her Muslim neighbors “never plan anything. They’re...

  10. FOUR Modernizing the Body
    (pp. 167-228)

    Modernization is perceived as having altered the state of gender and the body. In fact, these changes are often perceived and constructed as the primary features of modernization. The increasing medicalization of the body, its commodification, and its penetration by “science” has led to new conceptualizations of reproduction and sexuality. Modernization of the body in the Galilee has involved a new “training” of sexuality through forms of consumption, sex education, and the medical control of reproduction. These transformations are enthusiastically praised and pursued at moments and criticized and shunned at others. Palestinians in the Galilee negotiate modernity as potentially producing...

  11. FIVE Son Preference
    (pp. 229-250)

    The desire to have sons is central to family planning in the Galilee. While I have argued that aspirations for modernization constitute pressures to plan a small family, son preference enters this mix in complex ways: the modern family must be small, but it also must include a male child—heir, protector, and hope for the future. While “too much” emphasis on a preference for sons is considered primitive, in certain modern forms it is considered an acceptable and desirable requirement of the ideal family.

    During pregnancy women are sometimes told that the size of their belly, the frequent movement...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 251-256)

    The reproductive measure forms a profoundly influential worldview among Palestinians in the Galilee. Through reproduction Palestinians today navigate the vast, diverse, and interrelated terrains of nationalism, class, identity, health, the body, and gender. Indeed, reproduction serves as a deeply insightful “entry point to the study of social life” (Ginsburg and Rapp 1995: 1). It offers a unique window into and out of Palestinian society in the Galilee. Moreover, I suggest that what I have termed the reproductive measure may also be a window worth looking through to view other societies. By illuminating important links among reproduction, gender, nation, economy, difference,...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-276)
  14. Index
    (pp. 277-283)