Strategic generosity among local patrons: Place belonging and ethnic exclusion in a transforming lower-income neighborhood of Tel Aviv

Tal Shamur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Working at the intersection of exchange theory, urban anthropology, and ethnic and racial studies, this article offers an original perspective on the role of local patrons’ exchange networks in constructing place belonging during racial urban change. Inspired by a middle-ground approach to reciprocity, embodying both solidarity and distrust within the same ethnic community, and manifested in an interracial context, the article proposes the integrative term of strategic generosity. The concept includes two interlinked layers: the combination of altruism and self-interest in local patrons’ exchange practices within the same ethnic community, and patron exchange circles as mechanisms for the exclusion of racial Others reproducing boundaries between social groups. The case study is HaTikva—a lower-income neighborhood in downtown Tel Aviv originally inhabited almost exclusively by disadvantaged Mizrahi Jews (of Middle Eastern origin), and more recently transformed by the arrival of African asylum seekers. Based on fieldwork conducted from 2010 to 2013 among long-term Mizrahi residents, I argue that although local Mizrahi patrons use parental metaphors to describe their unconditioned giving to their own community; in fact, altruist and instrumental actions intermingle in the management of their reciprocity network. The exchange networks help vulnerable agents and enhance Mizrahi place attachment, but at the same time buttress the patrons’ own standing in the neighborhood and exclude the non-Jewish African Others. These findings are discussed in the context of everyday life in a marginalized ethnic community as well as a barrier to integration and the concept's contribution to exchange theory more broadly. [strategic generosity, ethnic exclusion, exchange theory, place belonging, Mizrahi Jews, Tel Aviv].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-581
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - 13 Jul 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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