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Fighting For Dignity: Migrant Lives At Israel's Margins


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On November 17, anthropologist Sarah S. Willen (University of Connecticut) discussed her new book, Fighting For Dignity: Migrant Lives At Israel's Margins, which received the Association for Israel Studies Award for Best Book in Israel Studies in 2019.

Professor Dov Waxman, director of the Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, moderated the discussion and led audience Q&A.

Program sponsored by the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. Co-sponsored by UCLA African Studies Center and UCLA Center for the Study of International Migration.


About the Book

In Fighting for Dignity: Migrant Lives at Israel Margins (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), Sarah S. Willen explores what happened when the Israeli government targeted newly arrived migrants from countries as varied as Ghana and the Philippines, Nigeria, Colombia, and Ukraine. She tells the personal struggles of migrant workers and their families and describes how tens of thousands were deported or forced to leave Israel.

In the 1990s, Israel practiced a liberal visa policy to encourage tourism and became a destination country for migrants employed in the agriculture, construction and domestic care sectors. Some arrived legally and overstayed their work or tourist visas. Then, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2002 launched a mass deportation campaign against foreign workers, contending they contributed to the country's high unemployment and took jobs away from Israelis. A controversial plan to deport tens of thousands of African migrants was scrapped in 2018 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after protests at home and abroad.

Special Offer: A discount is available on Fighting for Dignity for a limited time by the publisher, Penn Press, for webinar registrants who might be interested in purchasing a copy of the book. To make the purchase, go to the book page on publisher's website (click here), then click on the price, and enter discount code "WILLENUCLA30-FM" in the shopping cart.

About the Speaker
Sarah S. Willen is an associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut and director of the Research Program on Global Health and Human Rights at the university’s Human Rights Institute. Professor Willen has authored over 35 articles and book chapters on issues of migration and health, health and human rights, social justice mobilization, medical education, and other topics. She is editor or co-editor of three books and five special journal collections. Her book Fighting for Dignity: Migrant Lives at Israel Margins (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), was awarded the 2019 Shapiro Prize for Best Book in Israel Studies by the Association for Israel Studies. It also was selected as the winner of the 2020 Edie Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology.

A former NIMH Postdoctoral Fellow in Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, she holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology and an MPH in Global Health, both from Emory University. She is a two-time recipient of the Rudolf Virchow Prize from the Critical Anthropology of Global Health Caucus of the Society for Medical Anthropology. Her work has received support from the National Science Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Lady Davis Fellowship Trust, the Amy Adina Schulman Memorial Fund, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among other sources.