Displaying the Mizrahi Identity in Autobiographical Performances: Body, Food, and Documents

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In this article Naphtaly Shem-Tov examines three Mizrahi autobiographical performances in Israel, exploring how they construct Mizrahi identity in different ways. The term 'Mizrahi' or 'Mizrahim' refers to Jews and their descendants originating in the Muslim and Arab countries. Although Mizrahim make up approximately half the Israeli population, their ethnic identity and culture are considered outside the dominant Israeli Western cultural orientation. The three autobiographical performances discussed here challenge these preconceptions and present an alternative, assertive identity for the Mizrahi community. The performers incorporate real elements - physical virtuosity, the preparation and serving of food, and the use of official documentation and personal records - to blur the lines between fiction and reality, and to draw attention to the different forms of oppression exerted on the Mizrahi identity. Naphtaly Shem-Tov is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Literature, Language and the Arts at the Open University of Israel. His publications include Acco Festival: Between Celebration and Confrontation (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2016).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-175
Number of pages16
JournalNew Theatre Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 May 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research for this article was supported by the Open University of Israel’s Research Fund (No. 506151) and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture (2017–18).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018.


  • Ashkenazification
  • Israeli theatre
  • Jewish theatre
  • acting modes
  • ethnicity


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