Fighting For Dignity: Migrant Lives At Israel's Margins

Online Event via Zoom

Fighting For Dignity: Migrant Lives At Israel

Demonstration against deportation of work immigrants and their families from Israel, in Neve Sha'anan, Tel Aviv, 2009. (Credit: Roy Boshi/Wikimedia Commons). CC BY-SA 4.0

Sarah S. Willen, an associate professor of Anthropology and director of the Research Program on Global Health and Human Rights at the University of Connecticut, will discuss her new book, Fighting For Dignity: Migrant Lives At Israel's Margins, which received the Association for Israel Studies Award for Best Book in Israel Studies in 2019.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM (Pacific Time)

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Note: This live event will be recorded and posted online afterward for later viewing on the Y&S Nazarian Center's multimedia page.


About the Talk

In this talk, anthropologist Sarah S. Willen will reflect on her long-term fieldwork with global migrants who came to Israel – from Ghana and the Philippines, Nigeria, Colombia, and Ukraine – seeking work, and then became targets of a mass deportation campaign. Drawing on fieldwork in homes and churches, medical offices, advocacy groups and public spaces, she will explore how migrants in Tel Aviv struggle to craft meaningful, flourishing lives despite the exclusions and vulnerabilities they confront.

Professor Dov Waxmandirector of the Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, will moderate the discussion and lead audience Q&A.

Co-sponsored by the UCLA African Studies Center and UCLA Center for the Study of International Migration


 About the Book

In Fighting for Dignity: Migrant Lives at Israel Margins (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), Sarah S. Willen explores what happened when the Israeli government targeted newly arrived migrants from countries as varied as Ghana and the Philippines, Nigeria, Colombia, and Ukraine. She tells the personal struggles of migrant workers and their families and describes how tens of thousands were deported or forced to leave Israel.

In the 1990s, Israel practiced a liberal visa policy to encourage tourism and became a destination country for migrants employed in the agriculture, construction and domestic care sectors. Some arrived legally and overstayed their work or tourist visas. Then, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2002 launched a mass deportation campaign against foreign workers, contending they contributed to the country's high unemployment and took jobs away from Israelis. A controversial plan to deport tens of thousands of African migrants was scrapped in 2018 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after protests at home and abroad.


About the Speaker

Sarah S. Willen is an associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut and director of the Research Program on Global Health and Human Rights at the university’s Human Rights Institute. Professor Willen has authored over 35 articles and book chapters on issues of migration and health, health and human rights, social justice mobilization, medical education, and other topics. She is editor or co-editor of three books and five special journal collections. Her book Fighting for Dignity: Migrant Lives at Israel Margins (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), was awarded the 2019 Shapiro Prize for Best Book in Israel Studies by the Association for Israel Studies. It also was selected as the winner of the 2020 Edie Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology.

A former NIMH Postdoctoral Fellow in Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, she holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology and an MPH in Global Health, both from Emory University. She is a two-time recipient of the Rudolf Virchow Prize from the Critical Anthropology of Global Health Caucus of the Society for Medical Anthropology. Her work has received support from the National Science Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Lady Davis Fellowship Trust, the Amy Adina Schulman Memorial Fund, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among other sources.

Sponsor(s): Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, African Studies Center, Center for Study of International Migration