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Accepted Paper:

Mission not accomplished: negotiating power relations and vulnerability within the Messianic Jews in Israel   
Tamir Erez (Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva)

Paper long abstract:

This essay analyzes the complex power relations this anthropologist encountered while doing fieldwork within a Messianic Jewish community. Contrary to my expectations that my identity as a researcher would protect me from pressures to convert, these paradoxically reinforced the messianic belief that I was on the brink of salvation. The anthropological traits I expressed were interpreted by believers as proof of my upcoming conversion. My resistance to comply enhanced a suspicion amongst the community members that I was a spy and their pastor requested that I leave. What are the dilemmas and ramifications of doing ethnography with a group whose main concern is the ethnographer's life and afterlife? How far can the ethnographer participate in ritual life while aspiring to see the world from 'the natives' point of view', without raising their false hopes? For me, an Israeli secular Jew, immersion in a Judeo-Christian sect was not feasible or desired. What kind of ethnography (or truth) one can achieve, while doing fieldwork in a place one fears?

Panel W044
What are you really doing here? Suspicion and the politics of ethnography
  Session 1