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Drawing on ethnography conducted in Israel since the late 1990s, Food and Power considers how power is produced, reproduced, negotiated, and subverted in the contemporary Israeli culinary sphere. Nir Avieli explores issues such as the definition of Israeli cuisine, the ownership of hummus, the privatization of communal Kibbutz dining rooms, and food at a military prison for Palestinian detainees to show how cooking and eating create ambivalence concerning questions of strength and weakness and how power and victimization are mixed into a sense of self-justification that maintains internal cohesion among Israeli Jews.
Nir Avieli is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ben Gurion University, Israel.
"Food and Power gives us much to ponder about contemporary Israeli society, as well as the weight of history upon it. However, it also has much to teach those whose primary interests may lie far away from the contemporary Middle East, Zionism, or the history of Israel. Indeed, each and every chapter in this book works well as a case study of a food phenomenon that gives us insight into how cultural and social power relationships and tensions are manifested through food practices, and this helps us to think about how such dynamics apply to other places. This is a superb book."—Ellen Oxfeld, author of Bitter and Sweet: Food, Meaning, and Modernity in Rural China
"Ostensibly a study of food practices in Israel, Food and Power is in fact a highly original analysis, via the medium of those practices, of the ways in which Israeli insecurities are experienced and understood. It offers a remarkably well-argued analysis of precisely those things that make many Israelis uncomfortable with their role in the world—whether as the occupiers of Palestinian lands or as often boorish tourists abroad. As in the work of the late Sidney Mintz, to whose memory Avieli pays a fitting tribute, we see here that food is 'not just food' but a medium for the assertion of cultural characteristics that allow Israelis to accept a role in the world that others regard with dislike."—Michael Herzfeld, author of Siege of the Spirits: Community and Polity in Bangkok