Orit Avishai

Assistant Professor of Anthropology (at Rose Hill)
Email: avishai@fordham.edu

Office: Dealy Hall 403
Phone: 718-817-3859
Fax: 718-817-3846


LLB, Tel Aviv University Law School, 1994;
LLM, Yale Law School, 1996;
MA, PhD, University of California Berkeley, 2007

Research Interests

Gender, religion; marriage and family, qualitative methods; Israel studies.


I am an ethnographer who is interested in how ideology and culture, very broadly defined, shape social institutions, political dialogue, and cultural practices. I have written about breast-feeding and the politics of motherhood in the United States, gendered and sexual regimes in Israeli Jewish Orthodoxy, and women in conservative religions. I am currently studying the marriage education movement in the United States.


Work in Progress
In progress. “Shifting Gender Regimes and Religious Change: Lessons from Jewish Orthodoxy.”

Book manuscript in preparation. Politics of Purity: Menstrual Defilement and the Negotiation of Modern Jewish Femininities.

New research project. Holy Unions: Faith Based Marriage Education and the Remaking of American Religious Traditions.

Selected Publications (Articles)

Articles on Gender, Sexuality and Religion, and Jewish Orthodoxy
2012. "What to do with the problem of the flesh? Negotiating Jewish sexual anxieties." Fieldwork in Religion 7(2):148-162.

2012. "Contesting Sex-restrictive Sexual Narratives from Within: Jewish Laws of Menstrual Purity and Orthodox Sexual Anxieties." In The Ashgate Research Companion to Sexuality and Religion, edited by Andrew Yip and Stephen Hunt. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing.

Forthcoming. "Premarital Preparation as a School for Marriage: Religion, Gender, and the State in Israel." In Religion, Gender, Politics, edited by Hanna Herzog. Jerusalem: Van Leer. (in Hebrew)

2010. "Women of God." Contexts 9(4):46.

2008. “Doing Religion in a Secular World: Women in Conservative Religions and the Question of Agency.” Gender and Society 22(4):409-433.

2008. “Halakhic Niddah Consultants and the Orthodox Women’s Movement: Evaluating the Story of Enlightened Progress.” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 7(2):195-216.

2007. “Imagining ‘the Orthodox’ in Emuna Elon’s Heaven Rejoices: Voyeuristic, Reformist, and Pedagogical Orthodox Artistic Expression.” Israel Studies 12(2):48-73.

Articles on Methods
Avishai, Lynne Gerber and Jennifer Randles. 2013. “Reconciling Progressive Research Agendas with Fieldwork Realities: The Dilemmas of Feminist Ethnographers.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 42(4):394-426.

Articles on Breast-Feeding
Forthcoming, “Breast-feeding.” Entry in the Encyclopedia of Gender and Society. Sage Publications.

2007. “Managing the Lactating Body: The Breast-Feeding Project and Privileged Motherhood.” Qualitative Sociology 30(2):135-152.

2004. “At the Pump: Lactating Bodies at Work.” Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering 6(2):138-149.

Articles on the Marriage Movement
Avishai, Melanie Health, and Jennifer Randles. Forthcoming 2012. "Going to School for Marriage." Contexts

Selected Publications (Non-Academic)

Non Academic Writing
Op-Ed, CNN 8/6/12 “Do Powerful Women Need to Tame their Unsightly Bulges

Op-Ed, Washington Post 5/31/12 “Five Myths about Breast-Feeding

Op-Ed, CNN, 5/17/12 “Breast-Feeding Intuitive and Easy? No!

Courses Taught


  • Introduction to Sociology
  • Gender, Bodies, and Sexuality
  • Identities and Inequalities in American Society
  • The Ethnographic Method
  • Diversity in American Families, and Research Ethics


  • Qualitative Methods, Gender and Sexuality