Politics of Devoted Resistance: Agency, Feminism, and Religion among Orthodox Agunah Activists in Israel

Tanya Zion-Waldoks*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


This study explores how religious women become legitimate actors in the public sphere and analyzes their agency4;its meanings, capacities, and transformative aims. It presents a novel case study of Israeli Modern-Orthodox Agunah activists who engage in highly politicized collective feminist resistance as religious actors working for religious ends. Embedded in and activated by Orthodoxy, they advocate women9;s rights to divorce, voicing a moral critique of tradition and its agents precisely because they are devoutly devoted to them. Such political agency is innovatively conceptualized as C;devoted resistanceD;: critique within relationship, enabled by cultural schema, and comprising both interpretive skills and C;relational-autonomyD; capacities. This study contends that understanding agency within religious grammars reveals its underlying logics, highlighting how structures shape the meanings and realization of women9;s varied C;agentive capacities.D; It challenges current dichotomies like feminism/religion, resistance/submission, and autonomy/dependence. Overall, the author argues for a nuanced, culturally specific, capacity-based, relational approach to analyzing religious women9;s agency.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)73-97
Number of pages25
JournalGender and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 17 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 by The Author(s).


  • agency
  • devoted resistance
  • feminist activism
  • relational autonomy
  • religion


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