The performative landscape of going-to-work: On the edge of a Jewish ultraorthodox neighborhood

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Following recent insights into performativity and space, I explore the widespread routine of going-to-work as a capitalist ritual. Going-to-work produces a powerful yet ordinary, unspectacular landscape, whose performativity is fourfold: the compatibility of the material form and human use of it; the movements of people and the clothes they wear; the variety of individual practices of going-to-work; and the timing and spacing of this collective ritual. Generally, going-to-work is performative, because it transforms people into employees, defining productivity in terms of paid work. Hence, the prime quality of this landscape is to enhance economically productive bodies. In the second part of this paper, I examine this productive -nonproductive distinction in a unique setting on the edge of an Israeli neighborhood of ultraorthodox Jews, whose definition of men's work-unpaid religious studies -contrasts with that of the majority of the modern population. The distinctive ultraorthodox appearance, originally designed to mark a particular Jewish identity, signifies their nonproductivity as a spatial performance of Otherness. This provides an opportunity to probe going-to-work in this specific place as an arena where the ultraorthodox identity as Other intersects with their capitalist identity as Other. Short street interviews with modern and ultraorthodox Jews show that they recognize work as the main theme of this landscape. They are also aware that work is socially defined and can be criticized on both capitalist and ultraorthodox-religious grounds, and they illustrate how the controversy over the definition of work lies within the struggle over Jewish identity. I conclude by illuminating the performative role of space in displaying identity and social ideas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)803-831
Number of pages29
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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