Suicide in Israel or Israeli Suicide: Anthropological Aspects of a Glocal Dilemma

Principal Investigators: Prof. Haim Hazan and Dr. Raquel Romberg


This research project suggests that it makes sense to speak about Israeli suicide, not just suicide in Israel, and sets out to unravel local moral economies of affect influencing suicide and suicidal behaviors. In light of the uniquely visceral social contract explicitly as well as implicitly forged between the communal ethos edified by the State of Israel and the majority of its Jewish citizens, local meanings of suicide and suicidal acts are hypothesized as key reflections on the perception of personal fears from and threats to the forfeit of the viscerally affective social covenant effected between Jewish citizens and their nation/state.


The analytical framework guiding this research project integrates socio-historical approaches and anthropological theories of performative events, embodiment, and affect. This joint approach allows for the exploration of empirical evidence associated with suicidal practices from an unprecedented perspective that subsumes issues related to an assemblage of sites and actors, and to the public surfacing of individual motives, modes, affect, context, and effect of suicidal acts. While keeping constant the universal psychological causes and predictors of suicide and suicide behavior, this research proposes to investigate those Israeli-specific social-cultural factors that may inform the raise in suicide rates among the two major risk groups today: young adults and new immigrants from Ethiopia. Equipped with the methodological framework pertaining to the anthropology of self-validating assemblages, the research design includes multilevel interpretative frames from various apparently disconnected sites, and involving the interaction and relational influences between individual and institutional forms of social action at local and global levels.  These will be traced, for example, in editorials, suicide testimonials, and a variety of protocols produced by physicians, psychiatrists, special police units, and hotline volunteers. These modes of public evidence will be considered as the result of individual pragmatic meaning making processes, not just as straightforward deterministic quantifiable data.


Indeed, as "goal-oriented actions" and co-performances, suicide events are conceived of as situationally anchored, individually and socially practiced, publicly discussed, subjectively imagined and scripted, affectively motivated, ritually executed, socially interpreted, therapeutically constructed, and bureaucratically and religiously managed, recorded, and assessed at local and global levels. The relevance and future impact of this research pertain to both local and global contexts, and the integration of theoretical contributions to practice.


While extensive funding and vast knowledge are being invested in current global, standard suicide intervention programs that are then adopted nationally, this projects suggests that if such standardized models are localized and adapted to local moral economies of affect furnishing suicidal events and behaviors they would be more effective both in economic and moral systems of accountability. Furthermore, due to its unique conceptual and methodological design, this research plan could be easily replicated internationally for conducting similar “glocal” suicide research, promoting the local testing and adapting of global categories used in the assessment and design of national suicide prevention programs. Thus, this comparatively low-cost yet high yielding research project has the potential of not only making important theoretical contributions but also of assuring the success of any kind of nationally adopted suicide prevention programs and the optimal use of state resources.



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