Personal hygiene has pride of place in two of the most important scholarly conceptualizations of the modern body: that of Norbert Elias and that of Michel Foucault. This article analyzes hygienic practices among early Zionist ideological workers – halutzim (lit. ‘pioneers’). Contrary to the image of the healthy and vigorous manual worker, physicians lamented the disregard for hygiene among the halutzim – a behavior which they attributed to the latter’s ignorance and indifference to matters of health. The halutzim, on their part, construed their hygienic misbehavior as signifying proletarization. However, a close examination of the practices of halutzim, and the meanings they attached to them, reveals a complex and contextual repertoire. As I argue through the case study of the halutzim, rather than a mere instance of discipline (Foucualt) or self-control (Elias), hygiene was a cultural repertoire which was open for appropriation and re-signification in various ways and for various purposes.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This article is partly based on my dissertation research on hygiene education in the Jewish society of Mandate Palestine and on further research conducted with the support of the Open University of Israel research grant for new faculty members. I wish to thank the research authority of the Open University for its support and Netta Kaminsky for her research assistance. I am particularly grateful to the anonymous reviewers of EJCS for their meticulous reading and extremely helpful comments.
© The Author(s) 2014.
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