An intimate account of Orthodox family planning amid shifting state policies in Israel
In recent years, Israeli state policies have attempted to dissuade Orthodox Jews from creating large families, an objective that flies in the face of traditional practices in their community. As state desires to cultivate a high-income, tech-centered nation come into greater conflict with common Orthodox familial practices, Jewish couples are finding it increasingly difficult to actualize their reproductive aims and communal expectations.
In The State of Desire, Lea Taragin-Zeller provides an intimate examination of the often devastating effects of Israel’s steep cutbacks in child benefits, which are aimed at limiting the rapid increase in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population. Taragin-Zeller takes the reader beyond Orthodox taboos, capturing how cracks in religious convictions engender a painful process of re-orientating desires to reproduce amidst shrinking public support, feminism, and new ideals of romance, intimacy and parenting. Paying close attention to ethical dilemmas, the book explores not just pro-ceptive but also contraceptive desires around family formation: when to have children, how many, and at what cost.
The volume offers a rare look at issues of contraception in the Orthodox context, and notably includes interviews with men, making the case that we cannot continue to study reproductive choice solely through the perspectives of women. The State of Desire is a groundbreaking anthropological approach to the study of religion and reproduction, and a remarkably intimate account of the delicate balance between personal desires and those of the state.
Lea Taragin-Zeller is Assistant Professor in the Federmann School of Public Policy and Program in Cultural Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is also an affiliated researcher at the Reproductive Sociology Research Group (ReproSoc) at the University of Cambridge.
In this impressive book, Taragin-Zeller skillfully articulates a new way to think about religiously inspired decision-making that goes beyond established tropes concerning piety and duty, and focuses in a sensitive and sophisticated way on how couples think in nuanced and flexible, albeit often anguished, ways about reproductive planning. Fascinating and poignant.
~Simon Coleman, Chancellor Jackman Professor of Religion, University of Toronto
Taragin-Zeller’s remarkable ability to bridge many fields will be celebrated by diverse scholars in anthropology, gender studies, religion, and politics, and by those curious about the powerful intersections of intimate desires and the state.
~Nurit Stadler, author of Yeshiva Fundamentalism: Piety, Gender, and Resistance in the Ultra-Orthodox World
This beautiful book illuminates matters at the heart of contemporary Israel and its timely struggles over nationhood. Taragin-Zeller skillfully brings to life everyday uncertainties around family-making among religious people and, in doing so, contributes invaluable insights on timeless questions of subjectivity and ethics.
~Ayala Fader, Fordham University