Living Together: Exploring modes of Political Membership

A research group directed by Dr. Raef Zreik

The “Living Together” group has been working together since February 2010 under the guidance of Dr. Raef Zreik. The overall aim of the group’s research project is to enrich the repertoire of available options for living together within a political community.

In order to develop new approaches to the question of membership in a political community, the group attempts to create space for a new vocabulary that can stretch the imagination into novel, original ways of thinking about related questions such as citizenship, friendship and love, solidarity, being a neighbor and being a native, community and civil society, the public sphere and privacy. The project draws on Muslim and Jewish sources that may enable it to rethink political community and membership beyond the perspectives opened in recent debates between liberalism and its contemporary Western critics.

The group members share common academic interests but come from different departments and have diverse academic backgrounds and work methods, and thus enhance the group’s unique interdisciplinary character.

The group’s work is conducted on three levels:

  • In its bi-weekly seminars, the group reads and discusses central texts in different fields, regarding citizenship, modernity and secularism, love, friendship and respect. The main issue that occupies the group in these discussions is the possibility of rethinking political membership through new categories. The discussion aims to enrich the diverse projects of the group members.
  • The group encourages presentations of its members’ individual researches in front of a receptive audience of peers. These presentations take place once a month. The individual projects of the group members are partly sponsored by the Minerva Humanities Center. The Minerva Humanities Center also helps the researchers find external sources of funding and possibilities of publishing their work.
  • In addition to the regular meetings of the group, the group members organize symposiums of relevant topics of their interest, that are intended for the general public or for the academic community. The purpose is to give young researchers the opportunity to gain experience in conference organization, to meet other researchers in their respective fields, and to present their work before wider audiences.

The group encourages the development of sub-groups, guided by the group members, that will discuss topics related to those of the larger group. These adjunct groups include:

Religion, Secularism, and Political Belonging
Directors: Raef Zreik, Adi Ophir and Shaul Setter

Group Members: Raef Zreik, Adi Ophir, Shaul Setter, Ori Goldberg, Christoph Schmidt, Michael Karayani, Ishay Rosen-Zvi, Khaled Fourani, Hamutal Tsamir, Ruth Kara-Ivanov Kaniel, Abed Azzam

The “Religion, Secularism, and Political Belonging” group of the Minerva Humanities Center is part of an international research project held under the supervision of CHCI (Consortium for Humanities Centers and Institutes) and funded by the Mellon Foundation. It is led by four Humanities Centers located in North America (University of Arizona), Europe (Utrecht University), China (the Chinese University of Hong Kong), and the Middle East (Tel Aviv University). It proposes a thirty-six-month pilot program that will investigate how religious and secular formations organize the practices of political belonging across the globe. The initiative takes a comparative approach to its topic and employs the distinct interdisciplinary strengths of its participating centers by involving scholars from across the fields of literature, history, religious studies, philosophy, law and politics, anthropology, and critical race and gender studies.
During the 2013-4 academic year, the “Religion, Secularism, and Political Belonging” research group at the Minerva Humanities Center has been meeting on a monthly basis. In the first meetings we read and discussed a few major texts in post-secular thought: the Ratzinger-Habermas 2005 debate “The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion”; Charles Taylor and Cornell West’s contributions to “The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere” essay collection; and John Milbank’s treatise “Postmodern Critical Augustianism”. Later on, we turned to discussing the different projects-in-progress of the group’s core members. Khaled Fourani from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University presented a paper titled “Is There a Post-Secular?” where he argues that the post-secular paradigm relies on forgetting aspects of the secular’s malleable conceptual history and thus risks perpetuating entrapments it aspires to resolve. Christoph Schmidt from the Department of German Literature and the Department of Cultural Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem presented a paper reflecting on Pope Benedict XVI Regensburg Address and proposing a theoretical framework for what he considers as our post-political-theology moment, where the critical tradition, in its post-secular punctuation, and the Catholic doctrine, both face the challenge of revisiting the modern canon. Hamutal Tsamir, from the Department of Hebrew Literature at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, discussed the introduction to her book in writing, where she calls for a post-secular critique of the relationship between nationalism and gender in modern Hebrew poetry, based on a new thinking about the place of sacrifice and the status of women in the constitution of modern nation states. Michael Karayanni, from the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, presented his decade-long research on adoption laws in Israel, arguing that they convey the blueprints of the Israeli regime: Ethnic Jewish hegemony on the one hand, and a separation between different religious groups on the other hand. And Ori Goldberg from Tel Aviv University presented his work on theological thinking in Shi’ite Iran, arguing for Ayatollah Khomeini’s anti-fundamentalism.
In addition to the monthly meetings of the core group, we organized a public event which took place at Tel Aviv University on June 17, 2014, under the title Jewish-Democratic / Muslim-Democratic: Religion and State in Contemporary Middle East. Further details on this event can be found here.

Spaces of Living Together: Practices of Control and Resistance in Heterogeneous Spaces in Israel-Palestine
Director: Ronnen Ben-Arie

Group Members: Moran Aviv, Ronnen Ben Arie, Adeeb Daoud Naccache, Rolly Rosen, Eran Tzin
The aim of the research group is to explore possibilities of political change and openings of new spaces of citizenship that emerge from heterogeneously populated spaces in Israel-Palestine. By investigating practices of control, resistance, indifference and cooperation, which operate simultaneously within such spaces, we wish to go beyond the overriding concepts of national and ethnic separation that dominate the production of space in Israel-Palestine, and its common understandings. The monthly meetings of the research group take place in Haifa, in a form of a three-hours meeting. Every meeting consists of two parts: the first part is dedicated to a discussion of texts literature, while in the second part group members present their research projects. This year’s meetings were dedicated to literature concerning contemporary understanding and conceptualizations of urban space as a shared space of living together.

The Mutual Performance of Sexism and Racism
Director: Revital Madar

Group Members: Lital Abazon, Yossi David, Maayan Goldman, Yael Messer, Raz Saker Barzilay.
The group focuses on the Gordian knot between sexism and racism, as two forms of oppression that affect women which take a position of otherness due to their ethnic and/or national orientation. This double oppression, known as intersectionality, allows us to look on moments and situations in which a double oppression is in action. While studies of intersectionality focus on denoting moments in which a double depression is operating, and on the sociological costs and political implications of intersectionality, we wish to examine—through a careful reading of theoretical material on sexism and racism alongside reading testimonies of women—the similarities as well as differences between sexism and racism, in order to ask whether their mutual performance affects political concepts as we came to know them. Moreover, we wish to pay special attention to intersectionality in the Israeli context, for here we may observe two different kinds of racism: Exterior racism, i.e. racism which is directed towards those which are not Israeli civilians such as refugees, immigrants and Palestinians; and internal racism, which is directed towards Israeli civilians such as Ethiopians, Russian speakers and Mizrahis, and Palestinians. In relation to the research Living Together group, whose focus is questions regarding political participation through concepts such as citizenship, love, and friendship, our discussion wish to question common political concepts, and ask do this concepts go through a transformation or a change when read into the mutual performance of sexism and racism.


Group Fellows


Raef Zreik earned his LLB and LLM degree magna cum laude from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He practiced law for about ten years then he earned another LLM from Columbia Law School. In 2001 started his SJD studies at HLS and earned his degree at 2007. His dissertation deals with Kant's legal theory. As of 2010 and up till now he is the academic co-director of the Minerva Center for the humanities at TAU, and an associate professor at Ono Academic College where he teaches jurisprudence, property law, law and culture. He is senior researcher at Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem.

Fields of interest include legal and political theory, citizenship and identity, legal interpretation. Recent publications include "Ronald Dworkin and Duncan Kennedy: Two Views on Interpretation" Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence (forthcoming 2019), "Subject , Subjectivity and Subjugation" Comparative Literature and Culture (Forthcoming 2019), "Kant, time and Revolution" Graduate Faculty Journal of Philosophy, 39(1) 197-225(2018); "When Does the Settler Become Native" in Constellation, 2016; "Israel/Palestine Now and South Africa Then- on the Analogy and Its limits" in Law Society and Culture-Tel Aviv University Series, 2017(with Azar Dakwar)

Raef is on the editorial board of few journals: Theory and Criticism (Hebrew), Maftiah –Lexical Review of Political Thought (Hebrew and English), Journal of Palestine Studies (Arabic), and Journal of Levantine Studies (English).

Avital Barak is a scholar of movement and performance, art curator and PhD candidate at Tel Aviv University, School of Cultural Studies. Her research focuses on variation of resistance in manifestations of movement in the public space. She teaches in Kibbutzim College in the dance department and since 2014 coordinate the “Living together” research group in the Minerva Humanities Center in Tel Aviv University. She co-edited the book The Mount, The Dome and The Gaze: The Temple Mount in Israeli Visual Culture, published in January 2018.

Ronnen Ben-Arie completed his PhD studies at the Division of Government and Political Theory, School of Political Sciences, University of Haifa. In his dissertation he explored the concepts of resistance in the political thought of Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault, as a basis for thinking of possibilities for transformation of social and political order. His areas of research include spatialities of power, resistance and change in contemporary political theory and continental philosophy; contested urban spaces; settler colonialisn in Palestine; and the political, ethical and professional manifestations and implications of alternative planning. He explores these issues with a focus on concepts of citizenship and activism, through heterogeneous spaces in Israel-Palestine.

Shaul Setter recently received his PhD from the department of Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Minerva Humanities Center and teaches in the department of literature at Tel Aviv University. His PhD dissertation deals with the formation of potential collectivities in Israel/Palestine, looking at works by S. Yizhar, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean Genet, and Haviva Pedaya. He is interested in the relationship between history and literature, desire and political thought, Israel/Palestine and Europe.

Irit Aviram is a clinical psychologist and a PhD candidate in the School of Psychological Sciences at Tel Aviv University. Irit holds an MA in clinical psychology (magna cum laude) and an MA in philosophy (summa cum laude). Her dissertation discusses the concept of Otherness and its relationship to violence in psychoanalysis, philosophy and critical theory. Irit is a practicing psychologist at a private clinic in Tel Aviv.

Amer Dahamshe (PhD) is a graduate of the Hebrew university. His research fields are the discussion of  the Palestinian-Arab Geographical Names , The Representation of the Hebrew and the Arabic in The Public Road Signs, and  the discussion of the identity of the place as it is reflected in Oral Art, Historical Memoirs and in the linguistic Landscape.  Dahamshe have published Several Articles in This Topic and the first book of Him will be published under the supervision of the Heksherim Institute – Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Keren Dotan has recently received her PhD from NYU. She is a former lawyer (LL.B), with B.A. degrees in Economics and Psychology (summa cum laude) and an M.A. in Literature (summa cum laude) from Tel Aviv University. Her dissertation investigated Mizrahi writers of late Ottoman rule and the beginning of the British Mandate, and she is primarily interested in questions of modernity, secularism, and Mizrahi critique.

Orit Dudai is an art therapist, lecturer and researcher, teaching at the Art Therapy MA Program, Kibbutzim College. She has a PhD is from the Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies Program of the Interdisciplinary Studies Unit at Bar Ilan University. Interested in culture psychoanalysis and art, her research focus on the interplay between psychoanalysis and cinema, especially on how preverbal mental states are manifested and worked through poetic cinematic style. Her paper (2018): "Psychic Movement from Revenge to Redemption in Götz Spielmann’s Revanche (2008)", has been published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. She also practices art therapy in a private clinic, Tel Aviv and at Telem therapeutic center, Ashdod.

Noa Hazan (PhD) is a visual culture critic and researcher. She is a research fellow at the Minerva Humanities Center  in Tel-Aviv University where she is currently working on a new visual project focusing on Temple Mount photographs. Her previous works highlighted the centrality of racial markers in Israeli governmental photography since the establishment of the Israeli state until today. In her recent work on Israeli institutional museums, she revealed the connections between nationality, gender and race in historical and contemporary exhibitions. Noa is co-editor of the first Israeli anthology of visual culture that will be published by the Hakibbutz Hameuchad publishing group in 2015. She is currently completing her books black and white photography, and Race and Visual Culture in Israel.

Prof. Oded Heilbronner teaches history and cultural studies at the Shenkar College of Art&Design in Tel-Aviv and at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has published widely on German, European, German-Jewish and Catholic history of Europe, on popular culture in Britain,on theories of cultural studies, and on Nazism, Holocaust and Antisemitism.In the last year his main research field is Isrseli History esp.the History of Mental Health Patients and Suicides in Israeli Society. His articles have appeared in English, Hebrew and German in journals such as the Journal of Modern History, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Historische Zeitschrift, Geschichte und Gesellshaft, and the Journal of Social History. His books include England’s Dreaming. The Beatles, England and the Sixties (Jerusalem,2008), Populäre Kultur, Populärer Liberalismus und das Bürgertum im ländlichen Deutschland, 1860s–1930s (Munich 2006), Catholicism, Political Culture and the Countryside: A Social History of the Nazi Party in South Germany (Ann Arbor,1998), The Rise of the Nazi Party to Power (Jerusalem,1994). His most recent book is From Popular Liberalism to National Socialism: Religion, Culture and Politics in South-Western Germany, Ashgate 2016.

Gal Levy (PhD) has a BA in Economics and Political Science and MA in political science from Tel-Aviv University and a PhD in political science from the University of London (LSE). Gal is a senior teaching faculty at the Open University, where he studies the relationships between education, ethnicity, religion and citizenship. He published on ethnic politics and education, the education reform and the Palestinian society, ethnic and class voting and on citizenship after 2011 social protests. His chapter on Contested Citizenship of the Arab Spring and Beyond is forthcoming in 2014 in The Routledge Handbook of Global Citizenship Studies (edited by E. F. Isin and P. Nyers). His current research is on alternative education in the Palestinian society in Israel (Israel Science Foundation grant no. 217/09), acts of citizenship in the Arab and Jewish societies, and urban citizenship since 2011.

Tom Pessah teaches at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben Gurion University of the Negev. His doctoral dissertation, written at the Department of Sociology, the University of California, Berkeley, analyzes the representation of ethnic cleansing in settler democracies (Israel, the United States, Australia and New Zealand). He is interested in race and ethnicity, political sociology and cultural sociology.

Sivan Rajuan Shtang (PhD) is a visual culture critic and researcher. Her work deals with relations between gender, photography and literature; queer politics, photography and the Zionist body and with theories of performance and political resistance. In her recent work she deals with the connections between nationality, gender, sexuality and race in historical institutional photography and with the work of Mizrahi contemporary artists. Sivan is co-editor of the first Israeli anthology of visual culture that will be published by the Hakibbutz Hameuchad & Shenkar  publishing group in the beginning of 2017. She teaches at the Culture Studies Unit in Shenkar College for Engineering, Design and Art, and at the Culture, Creation and Production Department in Sapir college. 

Nitzan Rothem examines the mutual commitment between the individual and society in late-modernity. She finds a current shift in the patterns of commitment, and suggests that there is a moral and conceptual movement from solidarity to responsibility and from self-sacrifice to emotional containment. Nitzan is a researcher of the relations between the military and society. She discusses the cultural attitudes to military suicide, and returning from captivity in Israel and the United States. Nitzan is a post-doctoral fellow in The Martin Buber Society of Fellows in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Avi Shilon holds a Ph. D in political science. His dissertation focused on The Revisionist Movement Leaders’ Attitudes Toward Jewish religion, 1925-2005.He is currently a Postdoctoral fellow at the Tsinghua University, Beijing, in which he teaching there “Israel studies” for the first time. On 2015-2015 he was postdoctoral fellow at New-York University. His first book, “Menachem Begin: A Life”, was published by Yale University press on 2012. His second book, “Ben Gurion in the political wilderness” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) explores Ben Gurion’s world-view after his retirement.

Chen Strass is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Hebrew Literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where she also teaches. She holds a B.A. in Hebrew literature and behavioral sciences (cum laude) and M.A. in Hebrew literature (magna cum laude). Strass is writing her dissertation on representations of space and vision in the prose of Israeli authors Yehoshua Kenaz and Yeshayahu Koren. Her interests include the poetics and politics of space and representations of vision and power in modern literature. She is also a literary critic in Haaretz newspaper.

Amnon Yuval is the head of the History Department at Kibbutzim College of Education, Technology and Arts (Tel Aviv), where he teaches modern European history. He wrote his doctoral dissertation, “The Politics of Emotions: Henry Redhead Yorke and the Disenchantment with the French Revolution in Great Britain, 1789-1827,” at Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris. His current research deals with the French Revolution and the concept of Trauma.

Livnat Konopny-Decleve has MA in sociology and anthropology from Ben-Gurion University (Cum Laude), and is a PhD candidate in sociology and anthropology at Tel Aviv University. Her research, held under the supervision of Dr. Erica Weiss, looks into self-exile as an expression of dissent. She teaches at Sapir Collage and is a research coordinator at the University of Haifa. she is a member of the International PhD program 'Transformation in European Societies' and 'Political Lexicon' research group at Minerva Humanities Center.

Tammy Shel has a doctoral degree in philosophy of education, from UCLA, incorporating cultural and gender aspects, and ethnography. she examines the meaning of caring, philosophically, in the day-to-day interactions and relationships. In her research, she has studied caring through the lenses of 5 elementary school teachers, male and female, and their students, in Los Angeles. Nowadays, she teaches at several academic Institutes in Israel, and study social welfare at Tel-Aviv University. she also teach underprivileged, addicts, prisoners, and various other populations, philosophy, and philosophical discussions.

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