Security and Suspicion: An Ethnography of Everyday Life in Israel

by Mark Rowe



Review date: 11/12/2023

No of pages:


Publisher URL:

Year of publication: 01/02/2013


In Israel, gates, fences, and walls encircle public spaces while guards scrutinize, inspect, and interrogate. With a population constantly aware of the possibility of suicide bombings, Israel is defined by its culture of security. Security and Suspicion is an ethnographic study of the way Israeli Jews experience security in their everyday lives.

Security and Suspicion: An Ethnography of Everyday Life in Israel, by Juliana Ochs, 216 pages, hardback, published 2011 by the University of Pennsylvania Press. Paperback due in May 2013, ISBN 978-0-8122-2266-1, £16.50. Also an ebook, £16.50.

Observing security concerns through an anthropological lens, Juliana Ochs investigates the relationship between perceptions of danger and the political strategies of the state. Ochs argues that everyday security practices create exceptional states of civilian alertness that perpetuate—rather than mitigate—national fear and ongoing violence. In Israeli cities, customers entering gated urban cafes open their handbags for armed security guards and parents circumnavigate feared neighbourhoods to deliver their children safely to school. Suspicious objects appear to be everywhere, as Israelis internalise the state’s vigilance for signs of potential suicide bombers. Fear and suspicion not only permeate political rhetoric, writes Ochs, but also condition how people see, the way they move, and the way they relate to Palestinians. Ochs suggests that in Israel everyday practices of security—in the home, on commutes to work, or in cafés and restaurants—are as much a part of conflict as soldiers and military checkpoints.

Based on fieldwork in Israel during the second intifada, Security and Suspicion charts a new approach to issues of security while contributing to our understanding of the subtle dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This book offers a way to understand why security propagates the very fears and suspicions it is supposed to reduce. Juliana Ochs is Andrew W Mellon Curatorial Fellow at the Princeton University Art Museum.

It’s a volume in the Ethnography of Political Violence series.

“The author’s honest, conceptually strong, and well-written presentation focuses only on Israeli Jews, specifically, the families she was closest to and the activities she engaged in for a limited time in Jerusalem and Arad. Ochs skillfully locates her ethnographic work—not a psychological study (despite close attention to fear and anxiety), but an examination of everyday life and its intersection with state security and nation building—in the contemporary history and political economy of Israeli society.”—Choice

“[Security and Suspicion] is rich in ethnographic detail and balances attention to subjectivity, habits, rhetoric, and behavior. It is critical of structures and practices yet simultaneously deeply empathetic with the subjects who struggle to find peace amidst violence. The book’s conclusion—that the practice of security might make Israelis feel less secure rather than more—is an intervention of tremendous significance. . . . An excellent book.”—American Ethnologist

“Security and Suspicion is at once an ethnographic account of daily life in Israel during the second intifada, and an introduction and then some to the ethnography of security in the post-9/11 world. Juliana Ochs probes embodiment, fear and fantasy as registers of security and insecurity in a contemporary landscape where normal life is politicized through the threat and actuality of violence. Her account of everyday sociability is nuanced and keenly observed; the implications of her analysis of the visceral quality of state legitimation constitute a significant contribution to the ethnography of politics in the 21st century.”—Carol Greenhouse, Princeton University.


Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to stay on top of security news and events.

© 2023 Professional Security Magazine. All rights reserved.

Website by MSEC Marketing