Originally from Israel, her research and publications are on politics, religion, justice and gender in Israel and America. Associate Professor of Anthropology Ayala Emmett is currently writing a book entitled “Intimate with God: Gender, Religion and Modernity.” She is the founder of Seeds for College, a foundation that encourages inner-city minority students to finish high school and go to college. Emmett is the 2000 Humanistic Anthropology Fiction Award winner. She writes ethnographic fiction and is currently the Chair of the Society for Humanistic Anthropology Fiction Award.

How was it writing your book on Middle East politics?It was both exhilarating and painful. Anthropology’s intensive fieldwork offers a unique opportunity to shed light on issues that governments would like to conceal, such as the joint efforts by Israeli and Palestinian organizations to bring about peace, reconciliation and co-existence. These joint peace efforts are still facing serious local and global political obstacles and get very little media coverage in the United States.

What was the most surprising thing about American culture?I was struck by the deep sense of self-reliance and individualism that emerged in my data. Women who had miscarriages always asked, “What did I do wrong?” In mainstream American culture, people see themselves as masters of their own lives. In other cultures, a miscarriage might be blamed on the evil eye, regarded as God’s will, just bad luck or a biological accident. I was also surprised by the absence of a kin group around the parents at the time of the birth of the first child and the fact that the new mothers had little support.

Is America ready to have a female president?The question reveals that Americans think that the presidency is constructed in gendered terms, rather than in civic terms. What kind of readiness is required to have a woman president?

Sakamoto is a member of the class of 2009.



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