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Economic Citizenship

Economic Citizenship

Amalia Sa’ar


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With the spread of neoliberal projects, responsibility for the welfare of minority and poor citizens has shifted from states to local communities. Businesses, municipalities, grassroots activists, and state functionaries share in projects meant to help vulnerable populations become self-supportive. Ironically, such projects produce odd discursive blends of justice, solidarity, and wellbeing, and place the languages of feminist and minority rights side by side with the language of apolitical consumerism. Using theoretical concepts of economic citizenship and emotional capitalism, Economic Citizenship exposes the paradoxes that are deep within neoliberal interpretations of citizenship and analyzes the unexpected consequences of applying globally circulating notions to concrete local contexts.

Amalia Sa’ar is a cultural anthropologist at the University of Haifa. She has done research on gender politics among the Palestinian citizens of Israel, on the implications of the gender-contract cultural scheme for women’s work strategies and work prospects, on women’s perceptions of peace, war, and security, and on generational relations in Israeli feminism.

“…a well-written, nuanced and interesting account of contradictions at work in contemporary non-profit projects supporting economic rights for women… an important analysis of the pragmatic difficulties feminists face in seeking meaningful social change in a neoliberal context of gendered, racialized economic inequality.” • Journal of Gender Studies

“…a richly documented, theoretically sophisticated.ethnography that involves participant bservation, focus groups and.interviews with low-income Israeli and Palestinianwomen over an important ten-year period… Most remarkable about the work is Saʾar’s attention to historical,.sociodemographic, sociopolitical, and ethnographic detail.” • Review of Middle East Studies

“This book would become a precious asset for scholars and student in the field of gender relations who are interested in understanding how gender becomes crucial in the creeping in of neoliberal ideas. Sa’ar beautifully exposes the dynamics through which the gender contract of earlier political economies is transformed… Sa’ar’s writing is thoughtful and precise, and the book chapters could serve as important discussion triggers in courses and seminars on a variety of topics.” • Anthropos

“Amalia Sa’ar’s unique new book…contributes to a fuller picture of the construction of neoliberal selves and citizens among women, a picture that is applicable as well, with variation, to men and one that increasingly seems to forestall any alternative visions of what it means to be a modern person and citizen.” • Anthropology Review Database

“This is a unique piece: sophisticated, brilliantly argued, and, most importantly, based on the voices and experiences of real people.” • Charles Lindholm, Boston University

“This is an outstanding example of feminist scholarship that combines wide-ranging knowledge of various bodies of literature, nuanced critical perspectives on policies and projects ostensibly geared toward women’s empowerment, and an empathic approach to the “subjects” of those projects as well as to some of the service providers.” • Valentine M. Moghadam, Northeastern University

“This book wonderfully explores the issues that affect a variety of women in Israel and not just those that social/cultural anthropologists have tended to focus on.” • Virginia R. Dominguez, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Contents 7
List of Tables 8
List of Abbreviations and Research Projects 9
Acknowledgments 10
Introduction 13
Part I — Paradoxes of the Pursuit of Solidarity amid Polarizing Social Inequalities 37
Chapter 1 — Social Economy: The Quest for Social Justice under Neoliberalism 39
Part II — Women Making Sense of the Demand to Make Money 81
Chapter 2 — Vulnerability 83
Chapter 3 — Empowerment 121
Chapter 4 — Entitlement 166
Part III — Economic Citizenship—Between the Right to Work and the Obligation to Be Productive 203
Chapter 5 — Discussion—The Emergence of a Hybrid Local Discourse on Inclusion, Productivity, and Care 205
Conclusion 231
References 237
Index 253