Bureaucratic gifts: Religious conversion, change, and exchange in Israel

by Michal Kravel-Tovi

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By Michal Kravel-ToviFull Article: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/amet.12107/abstract

Viewing religious conversion through the lens of exchange rather than change calls attention to the web of interactions, practices, and discourses that constitute conversion as a relational domain. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork that straddles the institutionalized interface of state-run Jewish conversion in Israel, I show how the conversion process constitutes a reciprocal transaction by which each party to the exchange—the state and its subjects—provides the other with national recognition while also receiving and thus validating its own national identity. I trace the historical and political circumstances that have entangled the Jewish state and a significant cohort of Jewish converts within this reciprocal relationship. In doing so, I identify the biopolitical, moral, and bureaucratic frameworks that bear on this institutional transaction.