Gender, nationalism and colonial policy: Prostitution in the jewish settlement of mandate palestine, 1918-1948

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The aim of this article is to discuss the way prostitution was perceived during the British rule in Palestine (1918-48), analyzing the differing perspectives of the British colonial authorities and the Jewish national community. The major concerns of the civil and military colonial authorities were focused on issues of social hygiene and the trafficking in women and children. This often involved the transfer of both legislation and discourse from the metropolis. The Jewish community, on the other hand, was concerned mainly with the evolving national project. Prostitution was seen as a mixing ground of Jewish women and British and Arab men, thus threatening the boundaries of the national collective. Whilst the article is attentive to the importance of studying prostitution in its historical specificity, it also considers the many ways in which this case study illuminates the complex series of relationships between both colonialism and prostitution, and gender and nationalism. Women were important to the imagining of the nation not only for their symbolic poweras mothers of the nation, for example; the construction of nationalist discourses also involved focusing on negative gendered phenomena, such as prostitution. In these ways, the article seeks to contribute to our understanding of the multiple significance of gendered categories in the process of nation-building.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-100
Number of pages20
JournalWomen's History Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • History


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