Donkey’s presence is an essential characteristic of the Israeli Palestinian landscape. This essay addresses the donkey as an agent of a subjectivity that has been denied by the Israeli establishment, through a reading of Sami Berdugo’s novel, Donkey (2019). The essay examines the political functionality and biopolitical significance of the donkey as a metaphor, companion, and scapegoat. I argue that Berdugo portrays the donkey as the agency that enables a transition from object/other to subject. This subjectivity is built on human/animal continuity and fluidity; in his novel, Berdugo collapses the boundaries between his protagonist and Donkey and renders what in life resists power, domination, and eventually the different forms of death. The essay analyzes the alternative sociopolitical matrix that Berdugo portrays in which animality mobilizes a change; it also examines Berdugo’s literary strategy of “interrupting” the hegemonic cultural tyranny that has established, for years, rigid boundaries between humans and animals and by that denies freedom. Berdugo challenges “accepted” categories such as heteronormative sexuality, masculinity, and standard Hebrew through abjection and perversion; he “interrupts” and teases out the tyrannies of sexual and gender normativity by questioning and queering heteronormativity. Challenging the “accepted” and revealing its under-the-surface wounded matrix, is a literary concern that Berdugo has had for a long time; however, in Donkey he criticizes the Israeli tragic biopolitical condition, and he also challenges the narrator’s traditional stance. The essay discusses ecological and biopolitical issues that reveal the tragedy of both humans and donkeys in Israel, and particularly in the southern periphery. Reading the Israeli reality through the human-cum-donkey prism renders the neglected peripheries as an alternative Israeli existence, which forms the sociopolitical subtext of Berdugo’s novel. It is here, in the periphery of mental and material poverty, that Berdugo insists on the very idea of life.

issue 23 / n.1 (2023) by Riki Traum