Dr. Dafna Hirsch

Discipline: Culture research

Expert in: Culture of everyday life in Mandatory Palestine; Israeli food culture and food history,

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Key words: Israel; culture of everyday life; food; gender; body; ethnicity 

What are you currently researching?
I am currently working on several projects, all of which are related to the history of food in Mandatory Palestine and Israel. One project focuses on street food vending in Mandatory Tel Aviv; another focuses on the food scholar Moshe Wilbushewitz, who sought to rationalize the Jewish diet in Mandatory Palestine. Finally, I'm working on a book manuscript based on my research on the history of hummus consumption in Palestine and Israel.       

How did you become involved in your research field?
My entry point into the study of food was when I began to study the history of hummus consumption in Israel. I was always interested in the relationship between large-scale political and social processes, and everyday-life practices and interactions. Hummus seemed like a particularly fertile object in this respect, given that it is an Arab food which became not just an Israeli national symbol but also a culinary cult and a billion dollar industry. I was interested in studying how and why hummus became such a culinary passion, and what it can teach us about the issue of cultural appropriation and the transformation of embodied tastes. As I studied the history of hummus, more research topics presented themselves through materials I collected for this project, and I fell in love with the field of food studies.    

What inspired you to become a researcher?
The joy of discovering new things, of offering new ways to think about familiar things, and the ability to engage others in the work I do. The most exciting moments for me are when others tell me that they find my work significant for them in one way or another.   

Which of your research findings would you like to highlight?

If we study the culinary and cultural trajectory of specific food items, we see that this trajectory results from the interaction of several different fields (such as culinary arts, economics, politics, culture etc.). The culinary sphere, and more broadly, the sphere of culture, never simply reflects developments in a single field.

What excites you regarding your research field?
I am excited by the fact that food is so multidimensional and has many aspects, including material, social, cultural, economic, and political which can (and should) be taken into account. Studying the history of food may involve looking into the history of agricultural production, culinary transformations, cultural trends, economics, the history of industry, and so forth.