Space, Heterogeneity, and Everyday Life: Ultra-Orthodox Heterotopia in Israel

Avi Shoshana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This article examines the relations between the characteristics of a space and the phenomenology of its residents, as well as the unique influence of the space on the social relations and the actions undertaken by the individuals and groups in it. It is based on ethnographies and in-depth interviews conducted at the Israeli ultra-orthodox town of Immanuel, which made the headlines on account of the ethnic selection carried out there, a scandal known as the “Israeli Brown Affair.” The ethnographic findings point to the dramatic heterogeneity of Immanuel’s population and to the quite overt disregard that the different groups show one another. In the interviews, Immanuel was explicitly defined as an “other place,” and a dialectic was reported between the invisibility of the space (referred to as its being “terra non grata”) and its visibility at times of crisis (terror attacks and ethnic selection). The interviews also highlighted the “paradoxicality” of the space (the simultaneous presence of cultural discrimination alongside expressions of resistance). In order to attain a nuanced understanding of space at Immanuel, Foucault’s (1986) concept of heterotopia is introduced. Moreover, given the different interpretations of the space offered by members of the different groups, the concept of multiple heterotopias is posited. The conclusion points to the complex relations between space, heterogeneity, and everyday life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-555
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Contemporary Ethnography
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2013.


  • heterogeneity
  • heterotopia
  • resistance
  • space


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