Living Together: Exploring Modes of Political Membership

Living Together: Exploring Modes of Political Membership

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.

Academic Director:
Dr. Raef Zreik