Recycled wounds: Trauma, gender, and ethnicity in Keren Yedaya's Or, My Treasure

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Abstract

This article explores the relationship between trauma, gender, and ethnicity in the Israeli film Or, My Treasure (dir. Keren Yedaya, Israel/France, 2004). The film presents a few routine days in the life of Ruthie, a Mizrahi (Jews from Arab countries) prostitute, and her daughter, Or. I argue that Or, My Treasure is a critical Mizrahi feminist film that exposes the hegemonic social gaze as a political mechanism of power and violence that terrorizes the Mizrahi female body. The ethnic, class, and gender oppression of the Mizrahi female subject creates a traumatic experience that is expressed in both the film's narrative and in its cinematic apparatus. The Mizrahi woman's unceasing daily encounters with class and gender oppression, which she comes to internalize, constitute an ongoing trauma. The chronic nature of this trauma does not allow her to turn it into post-traumatic memory, and so the Mizrahi woman is destined to repeat the trauma over and over again. The Mizrahi mother's trauma is also transferred to and reproduced in her daughter. At first, the daughter does not acknowledge the socially structured nature of her mother's trauma and involuntarily and unconsciously repeats it. However, unlike the mother, who is unable to acknowledge her trauma as such, the daughter understands the traumatic wound that society has inflicted on her own and her mother's bodies. The film employs two aesthetic strategies (a fixed camera and the absence of reverse shots) that expose the realistic illusion of the cinema and disrupt the viewer's identification with the screen-especially the male spectator's-and the construction of his (or her) coherent subjectivity. This "wounding" of the cinematic apparatus leads to the traumatization of viewers, who are forced to confront what they would prefer to forget-the trauma of the Mizrahi female body in Israeli society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-71
Number of pages31
JournalCamera Obscura
Volume24
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009

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