Emotional Performance as Work Skill: Low-Income Women in Israel Learning to Talk the Talk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article documents the use of emotion pedagogies (EP) during economic empowerment projects for low-income Hebrew-speaking women in Israel, where a significant part of business-training curriculum is dedicated to narratives of self and performances of reflexive, emotional speech. Participant observations in weekly training sessions reveal contradictory effects: Despite clear neoliberal undertones of self-reliance, individual responsibility, and depoliticizing women's economic vulnerability, participants actually enjoy the opportunity to talk about their emotions and are particularly inclined to describe their work using the words "love," "care," and "giving." From their perspective, EP yields some important benefits even if their income remains low: The workshops give them an opportunity to acquire middle-class emotional competence, to exercise community, to undergo personal growth, and more. Exploring the various layers of signification that emotion pedagogies assume on the ground reveals a multivocal vernacular version that combines globally circulating ideas and locally specific discourses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-185
Number of pages15
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments. I thank the project's organizers and the course participants for allowing me to participate and for trusting me with their stories. I am grateful to the Israel Science Foundation (grant 1094/08) and the Israel Insurance Institute for their generous financial support. Lastly, I thank Jim Wilce and Janina Fenigsen for including me in the conversation about "emotion pedagogies" and for their useful comments on this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Anthropological Association.


  • Emotion
  • Emotion pedagogies
  • Gender
  • Globalization
  • Neoliberalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Emotional Performance as Work Skill: Low-Income Women in Israel Learning to Talk the Talk'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this