Translating Spirituality: Universalism and Particularism in the Diffusion of Spiritual Care from the United States to Israel

Michal Pagis, Wendy Cadge, Orly Tal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Research on the transnational diffusion of ideas and practices shows how cultural objects go through translation, adaptation, and vernacularization when implemented in new localities. Less attention is given to the translators themselves and their heterogeneous and often conflicting visions. Drawing on the notion of transnational social fields (TSFs), this article investigates how cultural objects get vernacularized differently in different parts of the TSF, demonstrating how processes of translation reflect larger social and political struggles over questions of identity. As a case study, we focus on the attempt of actors from Israel and the United States to institutionalize spiritual care in Israeli health-care organizations. The analysis reveals how spiritual care functioned as a porous cultural object, open to a wide range of interpretations and debates. While actors in New York saw in spiritual care the opportunity to bridge to Israeli Jews and create a global Jewish identity, Israeli actors split between using spiritual care as a vehicle for creating a local Israeli Jewish identity and seeing in spiritual care the opportunity to establish universal identities, broader than the Jewish one. The disagreement and conflicts between the groups influenced the translation process, turning it into a contentious struggle that involved different positions on the continuum between particularism and universalism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)596-618
Number of pages23
JournalSociological Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Eastern Sociological Society


  • Jewish identities
  • cultural diffusion
  • cultural objects
  • religion
  • spiritual care
  • transnational social field


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