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Orit Avishai

Professor of Sociology (at Rose Hill)

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


L.L.B., Tel Aviv University Law School, 1994;
L.L.M., Yale Law School, 1996;
M.A., Ph.D., University of California Berkeley, 2007

Research Interests

Gender, religion, sexuality, feminist theory, Jewish Studies. I have also dabbled in studying family and motherhood.


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


I’m currently working on several manuscripts related to my broad interests in the intersection of religion, gender, and sexuality, and feminist knowledge production. In addition, I’m working on two book manuscripts:

A Gender Lens on Religion: A book under contract with Rowman & Littlefield surveying the field of gender, sexuality and religion.

Queering Orthodoxy: Research under way about how “gay Orthodox,” until recently dismissed as a theological fallacy and a cultural oxymoron, has become a viable yet contested category. Based on fieldwork in physical and virtual spaces, interviews, and archival research, my research documents this historical shift; identifies lingering theological, political, and cultural debates; and assesses the implications of LGBTQ+ visibility and acceptance for Orthodox Jewish LGBTQ+ persons and communities, Jewish Orthodoxy, and secular LGBTQ+ spaces. This research is supported by grants from the Association for the Sociology of Religion, The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, The Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Global Religion Research Initiative, and Fordham University.

Selected Publications (Articles)

Articles on Gender, Sexuality and Religion (Theory and overview)

2016. “Gender.” In Handbook of Religion and Social Institutions. Edited by David Yamane. Springer.

2016. “Theorizing Gender from Religion Cases: Agency, Feminist Activism, and Masculinity.” Sociology of Religion 77(3): 261-279.

2015. “A Gender Lens on Religion.” With Afshan Jafar and Rachel Rinaldo. Gender & Society 291(1) 5-25. (Introduction to special issue on Gender and Religion; served as guest co-editor)

Articles on Gender, Sexuality and Religion, and Jewish Orthodoxy

2016. “God’s Case for Sex.” With Kelsy Burke. Contexts 15(4): 30-35.

2014. “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)

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.

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

“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 Feminist Knowledge Production

2017. “Bifurcated Conversations and Marginalized Knowledge: The Missing Feminist Revolution in the Sociology of Religion.” With Courtney Irby. Gender & Society 31(5):647-676.

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

Articles on the Marriage Movement

2018. “Saving Marriage Culture One Marriage at a Time: Leaps in Logic in the American Marriage and Relationship Movement.” With Jennifer Randles. Qualitative Sociology 41: 21-40.

2015. “The Marriage Movement.”  With Melanie Heath and Jennifer Randles. Families as They Really Are (2nd ed), edited by Barbara Risman and Virginia Rutter. Norton Press.

2012. “Going to School for Marriage.”  With Melanie Heath and Jennifer Randles. Contexts 11(3) 34-38.

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
  • Diversity in American Families
  • Research Ethics
  • Religion, Gender, Sexuality