Society for the Anthropology of Religion
Oral Presentation Session
This paper explicates how vegan food fuels the redemption project of the African Hebrew Israelites (AHIC), a transnational millenarian community that was born in Chicago, but for almost 50 years has been headquartered in the Israeli desert town of Dimona. Claiming to be the direct descendants of the Biblical Hebrews, the AHIC have forged a holistic, Bible-based culture in order to serve the God of Israel in the Land of Israel. Central to this culture are clearly defined gender roles and patriarchal families, as well as a regenerative health regimen and, based on their reading of Genesis 1:29, a vegan diet.
This paper will show how, in the process of serving God and enacting their Hebrew Israelite identity, the brothers of the Kingdom of Yah re-script their bodies as responsible and righteous. Yet contrary to findings about Euro-American men who often display less authoritative "alternative masculinities" as they adopt a vegan diet, hegemonic masculinity remains pervasive in the AHIC. African Hebrew Israelite men narrate and perform their black male bodies as unambiguously heterosexed, virile, strong and naturalistic, thereby reversing the moral implications of the same characteristics that white Euro-Americans used to revile and demean them.
I will untangle this paradox by focusing on the transformative symbolic power of Edenic vegan food within the dynamic conjunctures of the African diaspora, North American history and Israeli society where the AHIC's redemptive project of servitude to Yah evolved, changed and solidified.