New Article: Zion-Waldoks, Agency, Feminism, and Religion among Orthodox Agunah Activists

Zion-Waldoks, Tanya. “Politics of Devoted Resistance. Agency, Feminism, and Religion among Orthodox Agunah Activists in Israel.” Gender & Society 29.1 (2015): 73-97.

 

URL: http://gas.sagepub.com/content/29/1/73

 

Abstract

 This study explores how religious women become legitimate actors in the public sphere and analyzes their agency—its meanings, capacities, and transformative aims. It presents a novel case study of Israeli Modern-Orthodox Agunah activists who engage in highly politicized collective feminist resistance as religious actors working for religious ends. Embedded in and activated by Orthodoxy, they advocate women’s rights to divorce, voicing a moral critique of tradition and its agents precisely because they are devoutly devoted to them. Such political agency is innovatively conceptualized as “devoted resistance”: critique within relationship, enabled by cultural schema, and comprising both interpretive skills and “relational-autonomy” capacities. This study contends that understanding agency within religious grammars reveals its underlying logics, highlighting how structures shape the meanings and realization of women’s varied “agentive capacities.” It challenges current dichotomies like feminism/religion, resistance/submission, and autonomy/dependence. Overall, the author argues for a nuanced, culturally specific, capacity-based, relational approach to analyzing religious women’s agency.

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