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Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Dr Yulia Egorova

Egorova, Yulia (2015). Redefining the Converted Jewish Self: Race, Religion and Israel's Bene Menashe. American Anthropologist 117(3): 493-505.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

The Bene Menashe stem from a number of Christian groups of the Indo-Burmese borderland, some of whom back in the 1950s declared their descent from the Lost Tribes of Israel. In this article, I will use the example of the Bene Menashe migration to Israel to cast analytical light on different ways in which race and religion co-constitute each other in processes of transnational migration. To do so, I will focus on one specific aspect of the Bene Menashe migration—the way the community has to construct and enact their religious affiliation to be able to become Israeli citizens and to be considered part of the Jewish people by their “hosts.” I argue that, in the case of the Bene Menashe, race and religion co-produce each other in ways that reinforce racialized understandings of Judaism and Jewishness, and I suggest that what accounts for this phenomenon is that the opportunities that the Bene Menashe immigrants had in defining their religiosity in Israel were limited by the conditions of their migration, which developed against the backdrop of multiple colonial contexts. [Judaism, Israel, racialization, migration, religion]