Divorced from Citizenship: Palestinian-Christian Women between the Church and the Jewish State

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The vast multidisciplinary literature on marital dissolution tends to conceptualize divorce as a personal, individualist act that naturally resides in the domestic sphere. The article challenges this prevailing scholarly perspective by dissecting a substantially underexplored dimension of divorce as a citizenship-certifying act located squarely in the public sphere. Drawing on a pioneering qualitative study among Palestinian Christians in Israel as a case study, we argue that Israel's divorce law, which locks Catholics into indissoluble marriages, should be recognized as a key state instrument for delineating the contours of citizenship - a boundary-demarcating apparatus between insiders and outsiders who are excluded from full and equal membership. The article provides novel insights into the complex interrelations between divorce, gender, and citizenship, showing how Palestinian-Christian women pay the price of a purportedly sex-neutral, no-exit regime. The article also illuminates a seldom-studied phenomenon we call divorce conversion: the act of changing one's denomination for the sake of marital freedom, which is a hallmark of Palestinian-Christians' third-rate status in the Jewish state. We conclude that divorce should be reconceptualized as a right to egalitarian female citizenship, serving as a basic precursor to women's full participation in all spheres of life.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)89-129
Number of pages41
JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 17 Feb 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Law
  • General Social Sciences


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