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2022-2023

What Allows Human Language? Seeking the Genetic, Anatomical, Cognitive, and Cultural Factors Underlying Language Emergence

What Allows Human Language? Seeking the Genetic, Anatomical, Cognitive, and Cultural Factors Underlying Language Emergence

February 1-28, 2023
June 1 - July 31, 2023

 

Organizers:

Inbal Arnon (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Liran Carmel (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Language is unique to humans: while other species possess sophisticated communication systems, none approach the complexity of human language. Importantly, what allows this unique ability is still not understood. What is clear, however, is that the answer lies in the combination of multiple cultural, cognitive, genetic and anatomical factors. Recent years have seen significant advances in our understanding of the genetic and cultural properties of archaic human groups, our knowledge about the complexity of nonhuman communication systems, and our ability to test questions about human and language evolution using big data sets and novel computational tools. These advances have the potential to provide novel insights about three crucial questions, which will be the focus of this group: (a) the timeline of language evolution, (b) the factors involved in its emergence, (c) the extent to which human language is qualitatively different from nonhuman communication systems.

Answering these questions requires integrating across multiple research fields and scientific communities. The research will address them from an interdisciplinary perspective, by bringing together researchers working on the genetic, anatomical, cognitive, and cultural underpinnings of archaic and modern humans, alongside researchers of animal communication and cognition. Such a conversation can generate new answers on the long-debated question of how language emerged, and why it has only emerged in humans.

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Meta Reasoning: Concepts, Open Issues and Methodology

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Meta Reasoning: Concepts, Open Issues and Methodology

September 1- December 31, 2022

Organizers:

Rakefet Ackerman (Technion–Israel Institute of Technology)
Valerie Thompson (University of Saskatchewan)

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Metacognitive processes accompany people’s thinking while investing mental effort towards achieving their goals (e.g., taking decisions, learning, solving problems). Metacognitive Monitoring reflects feelings of (un)certainty about how well a particular thinking process progresses. Research has demonstrated that monitoring guides further action, such as acting, thinking further, seeking help, or giving up. Miscalibration arises when monitoring relies on unreliable cues (e.g., ease with which information comes to mind) and may misdirect investment of cognitive effort, leading to epistemic failures (e.g., errors, belief in fake news).

So far, metacognitive research has been mostly focused on learning—mostly remembering and knowledge retrieval—and thus often called Meta-Memory. Much less is known about metacognitive processes involved in higher-order reasoning. Relative to memorising or retrieving a piece of information, reasoning typically requires more time and effort, and involves a combination of cognitive processes (including memory). For this reason, we have recently developed a Meta-Reasoning framework in an invited review paper in the prestigious journal Trends in Cognitive Science (Ackerman & Thompson, 2017).

Meta-Reasoning research is nascent. New insights and research methodologies are accumulating, and we are now in the process of establishing a research community. A first step in this direction was establishing a web site and list serve (https://meta-reasoning.net.technion.ac.il/). This research group is the next step, aiming at bringing together experienced researchers with diverse expertise and a proven track-record in offering out-of-the-box research approaches. Our collective goal is to develop concepts, measures, research and research programs for pushing the Meta-Reasoning domain forward.

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New Christian and New Jewish Discourses of Identity between Polemics and Apologetics: Rhetoric and Representation from the Late Middle Ages to the End of the Early Modern Period

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New Christian and New Jewish Discourses of Identity between Polemics and Apologetics

September 1, 2022 - June 30, 2023

Organizers:

Claude Stuczynski (Bar-Ilan University)
David Graizbord (University of Arizona)

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The research group will be devoted to the multi-disciplinary study of how and why New Christians (Iberian Jewish converts to Christianity and their descendants who were living as Christians) as well as New Jews (New Christians who adopted normative Judaism, mostly in the Western Sephardi Diaspora) understood (1) their own identities, (2) Jewish and Christian identities in particular, and (3) identity in general. The group will approach these authors as simultaneous targets and creators of polemical and apologetic writings within a time span covering the end of the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

The research will pay special attention to the historical generation, content, and contexts of narratives belonging to various (sometimes intersecting) genres, as well as their influence as unique genres. The researchers will especially analyze these narratives as their creators addressed questions of self- and communal identification—its nature, formation, boundaries, and manifold functions. All discussions will pay attention to the construction of the narratives as reactions to anti-Jewish and anti-converso argumentation, or, depending on the case, as spontaneous initiatives to argue for Judaism against Christianity and/or to support the “Men of the Nation,” also known as the “nação” (Nation), a group comprising New Christians and New Jews. This will be a unique occasion to bring together scholars from the fields of Iberian studies (Spain, Portugal and the Iberian colonies) and Jewish studies, medievalists and early-modernists, historians and literary scholars, to map, contextualize and understand polemical and apologetic discourses and explore their impact in framing New Christian and New Jewish identities.

By comparing the New Christian or converso phenomenon to the New Jewish or Western Sephardi experience through this particular prism, we invite comparisons: both to understand the specific contexts and idiosyncratic discursive configurations and also to identify overlapping continuities and analogies between the New Christian and the New Jewish “condition.” In other words, we believe that this will be an innovative way to better understand what it meant to be a member of the Iberian/Sephardi “Hebrew nation (nação)”.

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2021-2022

Mathematical Modelling of Biological Control Interaction to Support Agriculture and Conservation

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Mathematical Modelling of Biological Control Interaction to Support Agriculture and Conservation

February 1, 2022 – June 30, 2022

Organizers:

Tamar Keasar (University of Haifa)
Eric Wajnberg (INRA)

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Global crop losses due to arthropods amount to 18-26% of the annual production. Efficient and sustainable pest control strategies are needed to reduce these losses. Many tools for controlling insect pests are available. Among them, biological control by insect natural enemies (predators and parasitoids) has recently gained renewed interest because of environmental concerns and problems encountered with the use of pesticides. Biological control has a long history of use in pest management and has been outstandingly successful in many instances. Nevertheless, such successes remain limited in number and failures are often under-reported. Moreover, biological control programs are still widely practiced as trial-and-error enterprises, rather than being guided by theory-driven principles.

The deficiency in theory-based biological control practices is not only due to insufficient basic information. A wealth of knowledge exists on the behavioral mechanisms employed by insect natural enemies to find and exploit their hosts/prey, as well as on their population dynamics and evolutionary adaptations to their environments. Moreover, a variety of modeling approaches are available to describe these processes and to predict their long-term population-level effects. These include tools such as static and dynamic optimization, game theory, stochastic dynamic modeling, matrix models and genetic algorithms. However, theoretical and empirical knowledge are often being advanced independently, limiting the interplay between the two fields and hence the connection between theory and practice.

Our study group will span the continuum between theoretical approaches (behavioral, population and community ecology) and application (biological control). Our main aim will be to bridge the existing gaps between the well-developed theory of interactions between insects and their natural enemies, and the optimization of the efficacy of biological control projects in agriculture and conservation. This interdisciplinary group will comprise mathematical biologists and experimentalists interested in close collaborations. 

Photo credit: Hans Smid (www.bugsinspace.nl)

 

 

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Purity and Pollution in Late Antique and Early Medieval Culture and Society

Purity

Purity and Pollution in Late Antique and Early Medieval Culture and Society

September 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022

Organizer:

Yaniv Fox (Bar-Ilan University)

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Late antique and medieval cultures were preoccupied with cleanliness. Everything they held dear was susceptible to corruption, a concern that weighed heavily on the minds of contemporary writers. Early Christians were driven to produce a response to Jewish and pagan perspectives on the question of purity and pollution very early on. As Muslims advanced into Christian lands, they too came into contact with competing notions of purity and pollution and were made to respond.

Views on purity and pollution reflected a wide range of cultural preoccupations and have been employed to effect profound social changes in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The concept of pollution is therefore a useful lens with which to observe late antique and medieval societies, whose most central convictions were often anchored to the complementary concepts of purity and impurity. For Christian communities, the liturgical year divided time by alternating between sacred and profane. Jewish and Islamic dietary laws restricted the body’s access to nourishment by forbidding certain foods and drinks, regulating the production of permitted food, and controlling bodily purification cycles. In Christianity, access to the shrines of saints and to their relics was gained only after a meticulous process of physical and emotional cleansing. Similarly, handling a Torah or a Qur’an were actions that had clear consequences in terms of purity and pollution. 

The pure/impure dichotomy is pervasive in contemporary compositions, from all fields of knowledge. Medicinal texts were aimed at restoring balance to the ailing body and expelling contaminants. This was also a prevalent motif of thaumaturgically themed episodes in hagiographies, which depicted the discharges and convulsions of the impure body healed by the presence of the saint. Heresiological and theological texts defined the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy, condemning divergent expressions of the faith as agents of contamination. The detailed discussions of hypothetical ablution scenarios in Islamic ṭahāra legislation reflect a similar concern. 

The objective of the research group is to investigate how the concept of pollution was understood and applied by late antique and medieval authors, with a focus on the period spanning from the fourth to the thirteenth centuries, in all regions in which Jews, Christians, and Muslims wrote during this chronological timeframe. Thematically, it is interested in expressions of pollution in such areas as dogma, diet, medicine, sexuality, law, and violence.

 

Yaniv Fox: Featured Fellow>

 

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Sensing the Truth: Changing Conceptions of the Perceptual in Early Modern and Enlightenment Europe

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Sensing the Truth: Changing Conceptions of the Perceptual in Early Modern and Enlightenment Europe

September 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022

Organizer:

Yaakov Mascetti (Bar-Ilan University)

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The proposed research group intends to provide an interdisciplinary framework for a scholarly debate and a further understanding of the relationship between the sensory sphere and conceptions of epistemology and of devotion in the early-modern and enlightenment periods. Our primary goal will be to present ideas of touch, sight, hearing and tasting against the background of the philosophical, scientific, religious and literary discourses from the 15th to 18th centuries. Such representations of the senses contributed to relocating the idea of truth from the objective to the subjective sphere, though the figures in our study often show the fundamental insufficiency of that dichotomy, challenging and at times proposing alternative models.

Motivated by the significantly growing scholarly interest in the cultural history of the senses, and by new trends in the history of science and philosophy, this group will address, problematize and challenge our understanding of the ways in which emergent philosophical and scientific conceptions of visual and aural perceptions played a role in changing devotional practices such as sacramental ceremonies, methods and forms of meditational attention, while they also fashioned exegetical practices and currents in the literary and visual arts of the 16th and 17th centuries. Despite the steady growth in interdisciplinary studies of the early-modern, circles of the kind we propose are rare, and which we believe can make a difference in the complication of our idea of what a field of research is. Our main contribution will thus be methodological, to historians, literary scholars and specialists in other disciplines, as we will show, from a number of perspectives, that a cultural matrix is composed of a variety of interacting idioms, modes of speech which provide specific utterances with a spectrum of diverse intentions. Thus we will present conceptions of taste as the relation between the physical sense of taste, and taste as a metaphorical term used to denote various forms of knowledge and judgement (including, but not only, aesthetic taste).

Early modern taste played a key role in the cultivation of humanist erudition, in the so-called ‘scientific revolution,’ in theological debates about how best to access divine truth, and in the experience and articulation of intersubjective knowledge and sexual desire. Similarly, between the late middle ages and the Renaissance, touching truth came to play a central role in conceptions of truth, knowledge and the conveyance thereof in visual arts. The centrality of vision for the philosophical, theological, and artistic spheres has been widely discussed and continues to occupy a primary role in the cultural history of the senses. This research group intends to bring these scholarly strands together and create an interdisciplinary platform within which the entanglements of discourses may lead to a more exhaustive understanding of the senses and their role in the perception of truth.

 

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2020-2021

Animals and Human Society in the Sinitic World

Animals and Human Society

Animals and Human Society in the Sinitic World

March 1, 2021 – July 31, 2021

Organizers:

Gideon Shelach Lavi (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Nir Avieli (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)

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Research Group Assistant: Azri Amram

The proposed research group will fill a gap in the global history of the human interaction with non-human animals. It will examine the diverse roles that animals – real and metaphorical – have played in Chinese history, society, and culture. Bringing together scholars working in the diverse disciplines of archeology, history, anthropology, art, religious and literary studies, the group will provide a comprehensive picture of the representations, roles and attitudes towards animals in Sinitic world (including not only China proper but other regions that were in contact with it and adopted elements of the Chinese culture). Extending from prehistoric times animals, through dietary practices and sacrifice, to the representation of pets in Chinese literature and art, the research group will make multiple contributions to Chinese studies. At the same time, it will provide a crucial and hitherto neglected perspective on the human interaction with the environment. In recent decades the humanities and social sciences have become increasingly aware of the significance of the interactions between human and non-human animals.

Anthropologists have termed the growing interest in human-animal relationship the "animal turn," the "trans-species turn" or the "post-human turn." This new perspective is transforming our understanding not only of animals’ effects on the development of human society and culture, but also of the rigid hierarchy where humans are on top and the rest of the natural world is subordinate to them.

The "animal turn" has largely passed China by. We still lack detailed studies not only of the literary and artistic representation of animals but also of the roles they have played in practice during the temporally long, and throughout the geographically vast, Chinese universe. Moreover, no integrative research have been carried on the complex networks of human-animal interactions, including the influences of those interactions on the shaping of human society and culture in the Sinitic world. The proposed interdisciplinary research group will fill this scholarly lacuna.

Anthropologists and historians alike have noted that the self-definition of humans is inseparable from their conception of non-human animals. Similarly, human attitudes towards beasts all too often tell us how they perceive fellow humans. In this respect, it is important to compare the Sinitic worldview to the Western one. Unlike the monotheistic faiths that have humans fashioned in god's image, the Chinese philosophical tradition holds that humans and beasts differ in degree, rather than essence, of spirituality. Imported from India, the Buddhist theory of transmigration contributed to the Chinese tendency of minimizing the existential divide between human and non-human animals. Does this theological affinity between people and their beasts of burden have any bearing on the latter's fate in human hands? Dose it create specific types of human-animal interactions that are Sinitic and different from Western types? The research team intends to investigate these questions, which answers are likely to be complex.

 

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Triangulating Towards Socrates: The Socratic Circle and Its Aftermath

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Triangulating Towards Socrates: The Socratic Circle and Its Aftermath

October 12, 2020 - February 11, 2021

Organizers:

Gabriel Danzig (Bar-Ilan University)
James Redfield (University of Chicago) 

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Research Group Assistant: Shlomit Kulik

The fourth century BCE saw a flourishing of philosophical speculation centered around the figure of Socrates. More than a hundred different Socratic compositions were produced between 394 and the middle of the fourth century. This unprecedented flourishing of philosophical literature in this period created not merely a new literary genre, but a new cultural phenomenon that eclipsed the previous intellectual traditions, both naturalistic and sophistic. It would influence the major philosophic traditions of the ancient world, not only the Platonic and Aristotelian schools, but also the Stoic, Skeptical and Cyrenaic schools; and it has had a huge influence on the modern world, including on the curricula of today's leading universities. This project aims to recover the unique features of the Socratic revolution by exploring the diversity of opinions within and around the Socratic circle. Our hypothesis is that the impact of Plato and Aristotle has effectively blocked out alternative views of the nature of virtue and the human good and reduced our appreciation of what is unique in Plato and Aristotle. In particular, we expect to challenge the Aristotelian conception of the virtues as fixed traits of character acquired through repetition and practiced with pleasure. This account of the virtues, which has become almost self-evident to scholars in all fields, does not fit well with the descriptions of virtues found in the full Socratic corpus. Xenophon, for example, believes that virtues are inherently unstable, require constant supervision and effort, and are not necessarily practiced with pleasure. This view requires the re-examination of the concept that virtues are ends in the themselves, so familiar from Platonic and Aristotelian thinking. We also find a much wider range of virtue terminology in the full Socratic corpus. Aristotle seems to restrict the virtues by schematizing them in relation to distinct emotions and behavioral challenges. By examining the other Socratic writers, we hope to be able to reconstruct an alternative account that can stand up to philosophical challenge.

In order to recover and test alternative views, we will make use of a variety of methods. Where complete literary texts remain (as in the case of Xenophon and the Platonic pseudepigrapha) we will attempt to reconstruct the author's views of the substantial issues connected with the virtues and the human good by standard literary and philosophical analysis. Work on this has been started by members of the group and others. In cases where we only have fragmentary remains we will focus on comparative semantic analysis of ethical and political terms and concepts, following principles of the history of concepts (Begriffsgeschichte) which pays careful attention to the historical and philological roots of philosophical concepts. While not a replacement for philosophical interpretation, this approach provides a necessary starting place and corrective to purely philosophical research. It will be supplemented by philosophical analysis and defense.

 

 

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Cultural Brokerage in Pre-modern Islam

cultural brokerage

Cultural Brokerage in Pre-modern Islam

September 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021

Organizers:

Uriel Simonsohn (University of Haifa)
Luke Yarbrough (UCLA)

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Research Group Assistant: Alon Ben Yehuda

Islamic civilization is a term used to describe a set of shared cultural, confessional, and social ideas, institutions, practices, and conventions, all positively related in some manner to Islamic revelation and the notional community of Muslims.  It took shape over many centuries following the formation of Muhammad’s community in the seventh century and, to an extent, is still undergoing change. Recent studies on different aspects of Islamic civilization have challenged the notion of a linear formation ex nihilo and advocated instead that we think in terms of processes by which diverse cultural phenomena took on an Islamic coloring. Thus, in contrast to an image of an emerging Islamic civilization that sprang up in a particular location and time, a revised interpretation offers a dynamic by which Islamic civilization was informed by cultural polycentricism and pluralism, and which multiple groups and traditions took part in molding. Islamic civilization, therefore, did not originate, but began when diverse cultural traditions entered into dialogue with Islamic history; it took on variegated interpretations in diverse social settings and has remained multifaceted to this day.

This revised outlook, however, does not rule out moments of exchange, borrowing, influence, or hybridity, but rather broadens the scope of inquiry by suggesting alternative forms of cultural motion. It is in the course of these processes that a variety of individuals played decisive roles as the human vectors through which cultural commodities of different sorts were gradually integrated within (and disseminated from) Islamic civilization. Such individuals acted as cultural brokers, a term derived from anthropological and historical literature, where it refers to individuals who serve as mediators between what are often (though not always) distinct social and cultural groups. They served as conduits of cultural transmission by transferring, mediating, embodying, and exchanging various social and cultural capitals,e.g., spiritual authority, erudition, kinship ties, legal capacities, and more. Yet their roles, intriguing in themselves, also highlight the complex nature of the societies they inhabited and the subtlety of intergroup relations. The proposed research group seeks to address the role of cultural brokers in premodern Islam; in particular, to identify the different types of brokers (courtiers, converts, communal leaders, women, missionaries, merchants, holy individuals, etc.); the circumstances which facilitated their activities (intellectual encounters, translation requirements, bureaucratic services, technological exigencies, trade and travel, enslavement, etc.); and the cultural outcomes or products of those activities (the availability of information and its types, literary enterprises, poetic styles, technology, urban planning, architecture, etc.). 

We thus propose to assemble a group of leading specialists in Classical Islamic history whose scholarly concerns are related to the social and/or cultural aspects of cultural brokerage. Our intention is that this collaborative endeavor will allow for a fruitful investigation into the circumstances that facilitated multidirectional cultural brokerage around the edges of Islamic societies, the type of cultural commodities that were brokered, modes of reception and impact of brokerage, and the correlation between historical phenomena and the activities of cultural brokers.

 

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Behavioral Ethics Meets Corporate Governance: Paradigm Shift?

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Behavioral Ethics Meets Corporate Governance: Paradigm Shift?

September 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021

Organizer:

Adi Libson (Bar-Ilan University)

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Research Group Assistant: Barak Or

 

Over the last few years, there has been a growing academic interest in the field of behavioral ethics: people’s ethical biases in decision making. This scholarship has focused on the behavioral mechanisms that explain why ordinary unethicality is so common among people who view themselves as law-abiding individuals.

A recently published book by Professor Yuval Feldman (2008) systematically explored the far-reaching implications of this literature to the legal field: Instead of assuming that its primary target are "bad people" which the law must deter from maximizing their own self-interest, the law should aim to address "good people." These changes require a better understanding of the mechanisms which cause good people to do wrong. Better understanding will also lead to better ways of addressing this problem, by designing the situation in ways which would reduce people’s unethicality, such as verifying they have fewer justifications to behave unethically or ensuring they have a clear view of who are they harming.

The proposed research is aimed at examining the interaction of the behavioral ethics literature with the legal field which provides the most fertile ground for its acceptance: corporate law and governance. The corporate context serves as a 'perfect storm' combining and exacerbating several aspects emphasized in the behavioral ethics literature that lead individuals to act wrongly, such as doing things for the benefit of others, diffusion of responsibility, remoteness of the victim and contagiousness.

Furthermore, addressing the issue of conflict-of-interests and agency problems is central to the field of corporate law. As such, the understanding that a central way for curbing conflicts-of-interest is by increasing the saliency of the conflict-of-interest in the eyes of the agent may have far-reaching implications in the realm of corporate law and completely alter the arsenal of its tools. In many instances, such an analysis may reach opposite conclusions to that of the conventional law and economics framework on the effectiveness of certain instruments in curbing conflict-of-interest problems. Are independent directors an effective tool for monitoring conflicts-of-interests? How significant should be the role of fiduciary duties in dealing with the agency problem? What effects does the group dynamics of boards have on the monitoring of conflict-of-interests? Two types of implications of behavioral ethics on corporate governance will be examined: structural implications and procedural implications.

The central goal of the group is to facilitate a reciprocal engagement: examining the possible contribution of behavioral ethics to the corporate governance literature and the contribution of corporate governance to the organizational psychology literature. Behavioral ethics has many potential implications for corporate governance and can yield various feasible policy applications. Legal corporate scholars can also contribute to behavioral ethics scholars, by providing real-world contexts and suggesting additional experiments which can validate experimental findings in the field of behavioral ethics. This is an important contribution to the behavioral ethics literature, which faces a serious challenge concerning the extent of its external validity.

 

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2019-2020

Cosmopolitan Spaces in an Urban Context: A Case Study of Odessa, 1880-1925

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[RG # 163] Cosmopolitan Spaces in an Urban Context: A Case Study of Odessa, 1880-1925

March 1, 2020 – July 30, 2020

Organizers:

Mirja Lecke (Ruhr University--Bochum)
Efraim Sicher (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) 

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The research group offers a new interdisciplinary perspective on cosmopolitanism and urban spaces in Odessa. The group will explore the interstices and crossovers as well as demarcations between Jewish, Russian, and Ukrainian culture in the period 1880-1925, using Odessa as a case study. We will employ the notion of cosmopolitanism as a critical tool for understanding the concrete spatial processes of cultural production and identity negotiation in an urban context. Odessa was mythologized as unique, but may also be a model case for studying other cities with large ethnic minorities in early twentieth-century Eastern Europe.

 

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Variety and Variability: Mapping the Cultural and Social Diversity of the Southern Levant in the Hellenistic Period

Maresha Athena Rhyton1

[RG # 162] Variety and Variability: Mapping the Cultural and Social Diversity of the Southern Levant in the Hellenistic Period

March 1, 2020 – July 30, 2020

Organizers:

Adi Erlich (University of Haifa)
Uzi Leibner (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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The establishment of the Hellenistic kingdoms at the beginning of the third century BCE ushered in a new era in the Southern Levant. Although political and cultural ties across the Mediterranean are evident much earlier, the growing dominance of the Greek language and culture in the region is remarkable. Syria Coele and Phoenicia were inhabited by a mixed composition of peoples—Jews, Samaritans, and various pagan groups—each interacting with each other and with the local and foreign Hellenistic regimes.

Scholars often describe the interaction of the region with the Hellenistic culture as polarised, debating the degree to which it became integrated in the Hellenistic koine instead of viewing it as an integral part of it. The study of the Hellenistic Levant has generally been applied to one part of the region only or to the area as a whole without offering a comparative analysis of the different groups therein.

We therefore will create an integrative study of the different parts of the region and peoples by mapping the cross-cultural encounters of the local traditions and the koine in each as well as among these groups. We plan to examine these parameters comprehensively, from the archaeological, historical, epigraphic, numismatic and artistic perspectives, and by using the vast amount of new data found in recent years as well as taking a fresh look at the historical sources. The growing corpus of evidence will allow us to gain new insights into the peoples living in this important region in a crucial and formative era.

 

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Constitutional Transplantations

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[RG # 161] Constitutional Transplantations

November 1, 2019 – January 31, 2020

Organizer:

Anat Scolnicov (University of Winchester, UK)

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This project will examine transplantation of constitutions and constitutional ideas from one country to another. Such transplantations have occurred both voluntarily (such as in Eastern Europe post-communism) and by imposition (such as in Japan after World War Two). This phenomenon raises both theoretical and practical questions. These include the role played by the existing culture and history of the country in receipt of constitutional provisions and ideas, and the extent to which external as opposed to internal constitution-making can lead to successful constitutional reform, particularly in the areas of democratisation  and human rights protection.

A basic question looms: Is the endeavour of constitutional transplantation a worthy, or even a worthwhile, one?  The replication of the constitutional text does not and cannot result in a replication of the constitution itself. The resulting constitution is a product of history, culture and religion as much as it is a product of the text.

Further questions emerge: When do constitutional transplantations succeed in producing the anticipated outcomes, and what are the conditions for that? Is it to the role of judges to affect constitutional transplantations? How can judges in their decisions justify borrowing from other constitutional systems? Do some constitutional systems provide a better template for transplantation than others? Can constitutional transplantation lead to democratisation and better protection of human rights?

Discussion of certain conceptual questions relating to this transplantation is currently missing in the literature. Such discussion has not just theoretical importance, but has important lessons for countries currently undergoing constitutional transition and reform (such as Nepal and Myanmar).

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Interrupting Kafka: Research Laboratory for Scholarship and Artistic Creativity

Interrupting Kafka

[RG # 160] Interrupting Kafka: Research Laboratory for Scholarship and Artistic Creativity 

October 22, 2019 – January 21, 2020

Organizers:

Ruth Kanner (Tel Aviv University),
Freddie Rokem (Tel Aviv University)

Research assistant: Adi Havin

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The aim of the Interrupting Kafka Research Group (RG) is to create a research laboratory where artistic creativity and academic research can interact with each other as complementary forms of thought and action, sharing the same physical and conceptual spaces. This approach reflects recent developments in the study and research of the humanities and the arts, recognizing that a direct dialogue between ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ is crucial for both. The RG will consist of scholars in literary studies, theatre and performance studies, the history of ideas and philosophy as well as artists of theatre, performance and the visual arts.

Franz Kafka’s writings will serve as the point of departure for this collaborative investigation. The theoretical framework is based on Walter Benjamin’s observation in his 1934 landmark essay on the tenth anniversary of Kafka’s death, where he maintains that Kafka’s entire oeuvre “constitutes a code of gestures” for which the theatre, Benjamin emphatically added, is the given place of investigation. Benjamin also provides the basic methodological tools for this investigation by expanding the concept of the caesura, which originally refers to a break or pause in a verse, to include the comprehensive poetic, dramatic and performative principles based on the ‘Interruption’ (die Unterbrechung).

According to Benjamin, the Interruption is one of the constitutive features of Bertolt Brecht’s epic theatre, creating gestures on which the principles of estrangement (verfremdung) are based. The RG will open up a new field of study to explore innovative forms of collaborative research by devising and examining a broad range of interruptive interactions and interferences both within and between such gestural codes as well as in the flow of thought and action themselves. These interruptive codes are the intermediate expressions of space/time Benjamin termed the ‘standstill’ (the pause or the break) through which it is possible to perceive, enact and even bring forth a radical change in the order of things.

Additional members of the group were actors from the Ruth Kanner Theater Group: Tali Kark, Shirley Gal, Adi Meirovich, Ronen Babluki, Ebaa Monder, Siwar Awwad, Arnon Rosenthal.

 

 

 

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Deconstructing and Reconstructing Consciousness: an Interdisciplinary Approach to a Perennial Puzzle

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[RG # 159]  Deconstructing and Reconstructing Consciousness: an Interdisciplinary Approach to a Perennial Puzzle

September 1, 2019 - January 31, 2020

Organizers:

Leon Y. Deouell (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem),
Daphna Shohamy (Columbia University, New York)

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Consciousness is one of the most fascinating and least understood parts of human nature, and arguably, of nature at large. There is nothing we know more intimately than our conscious experiences – where we love and admire, hate and despise, plan ahead, reflect back, and decide. Yet, we know very little about how these subjective experiences come about; we know very little about the mechanics of what may be the most precious aspect of our mental life: conscious experience.

Understanding consciousness is crucial for modern theories of human cognition.  Without understanding consciousness’ antecedents, functions, and consequences, we cannot understand homo sapiens. Understanding consciousness is also crucial if we want to improve theories of functions that might seem to be especially human such as planning, holding long-term goals, empathizing, and acting according to moral beliefs.

The research group will address consciousness from interdisciplinary perspectives, including social sciences (psychology, cognitive and decision sciences), life sciences (neuroscience), and the humanities (philosophy). It brings together a diverse and extraordinary group of scientists, junior and senior, female and male, from European, American, and Israeli institutions.

 

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Re-theorizing the Architecture of Housing as Grounds for Research and Practice

Re-theorizing the Architecture

[RG # 158] Re-theorizing the Architecture of Housing as Grounds for Research and Practice

September 1, 2019 - June 30, 2020

Organizers:

Yael Allweil (Technion Institute of Technology),
Gaia Caramellino (Politecnico di Milano)

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Humanity is facing an ongoing, global housing crisis with major consequences for social stability in cities and nations, and by implication for the lives and health of millions. Theorization of the crisis in housing studies points to neo-liberalisation processes which have since the 1980s transferred responsibility for housing provision from the state to global markets, corporate monopolies, and the dwellers themselves, assigning architects little agency to develop new methodologies for housing as a cultural product. ‘Architecture’ as a cultural product is thus often seen as distinct from ‘housing’ as a socio-economic need.

The vision of this Research Group is therefore a new outlook on the development of the housing crisis and on architecture’s role in addressing it, by rethinking the terminology used to discuss housing, and by developing anew the vocabulary for researching and designing housing for the general public.

 

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2018-2019

Research Group: Big Data and Planets

big data

[RG # 157] Big Data and Planets

May 1, 2019 – July 31, 2019

Organizer:

Tsevi Mazeh (Tel Aviv University)

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Astronomy is in the midst of a transformation brought on by exponentially progressing technological advances in the information age. New detector capabilities and faster computation have created a new era in which the use of advanced data mining and inference methods could bring new answers to long-standing scientific questions. The proposed research group, which includes leading figures in data analysis of exo-planets will 

• prepare algorithms for analysis of data from the forthcoming TESS space mission, 

• apply Gaussian Processes and machine learning algorithms to model stellar variability in transit and radial-velocity studies of exo-planets, and 

• study exo-planetary system architectures by developing population models and confront them with the accumulating data, using new statistical tools. 

We expect the research group to provide a better understanding of the exo-planetary population via advanced statistical tools — a giant leap in one of the most exciting fields of present science. 

 

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Research Group: The Reception and Impact of Aristotelian Logic in Medieval Jewish Culture

medieval jewish

[RG # 156]  The Reception and Impact of Aristotelian Logic in Medieval Jewish Culture

Sept. 1, 2018 - July 1, 2019

Organizers:
Charles Manekin (University of Maryland),
Yehuda Halper (Bar-Ilan University)

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The purpose of the research group is to investigate: the reception, followed by the naturalization, of Aristotelian logic into medieval Jewish cultures in Europe; and the repercussions of the introduction of logic into the Jewish intellectual matrix in numerous other areas of Jewish thought, beyond the field of logic itself. The proposed group will bring together scholars from various corners of medieval intellectual history: two historians of logic (specializing in the history of logic in Hebrew and Arabic); historians of medieval science, medicine, and philosophy; and scholars who study medieval religious polemic and Biblical exegesis, with an emphasis on the use of logic therein. Among the questions to be considered will be: What was the place of logic in the overall transfer of rationalist philosophical/scientific culture to European Jews in the Middle Ages (12th-15th centuries)? How did the study of logic affect intellectual activity in various areas, including traditional Jewish subjects (e.g. religious polemics; medicine; biblical exegesis; Talmud study).

By highlighting the interdisciplinary importance of medieval logic in Hebrew, we anticipate that the impact of this group will extend beyond the history of medieval philosophy, into the fields of general European medieval culture and history, Christian intellectual history, history of philosophy and logic, history of medicine, kabbalah, etc. We hope to bring to the attention of scholars of Jewish intellectual history and historians of logic just how widespread the study of logic by Jews in the Middle Ages was, and how it impacted their other intellectual endeavors.

 

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Research Group: New Directions in the Study of Javanese Literature

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[RG # 155] New Directions in the Study of Javanese Literature

September 1, 2018 - June 30, 2019

Organizer:

Ronit Ricci (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Javanese literature is among the world’s richest and most unusual literary traditions yet it is currently little known outside of Java, Indonesia. The vast majority of Javanese texts, in manuscript and print form, remain untouched by scholars.

The Javanese are the largest Muslim ethno-linguistic group in the world and the largest ethnic group in Indonesia, with their language spoken today by approximately 100 million people. Beginning in the ninth century and into the present they have produced a complex, diverse and intricate literary corpus that is a gateway to understanding Javanese writing practices, approaches to language, poetics, and translation strategies. Through its narrative histories, theological and legal treatises and interlinear translations from Arabic to Javanese, this literature also offers insights on Java’s remarkable transition to Islam, half a world away - geographically, culturally and linguistically - from Islam’s birthplace in the Middle East.

The study of Javanese in western universities has declined dramatically and it is currently on the verge of disappearance. The research group aims to revitalize this important humanistic field by:

  1. creating a rare opportunity for scholars to read, study and discuss Javanese texts collaboratively

  2. examining and analyzing yet unstudied Javanese works, thus broadening the basis of Javanese texts on which to generalize and theorize

  3. exploring anew previously studied texts, employing innovative methodological and theoretical perspectives from Comparative Literature, Islamic Studies, Cultural Studies and Performance Studies, and

  4. in light of the above, reconceptualizing and remapping major dimensions of the field of Javanese literature including periodization, contextualization, literary categorizations, and interpretive methods.

Mindful of the newness of Indonesian and Javanese Studies within Israeli academia, group members also aim to contribute (individually and collectively) to the expansion and strengthening of these fields in Israel. 

 

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Research Group: Rethinking Early Modern Jewish Legal Culture: New Sources, Methodologies and Paradigms

legal culture

[RG # 154] Rethinking Early Modern Jewish Legal Culture: New Sources, Methodologies and Paradigms

September 1, 2018 - June 30, 2019

Organizers:

Jay Berkovitz (University of Massachusetts Amherst),
Arye Edrei (Tel Aviv University)

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A substantial number of new sources for the study of Jewish history and law have come to the attention of scholars during the past fifteen years. Only recently, rabbinic and lay court records from Jewish communities in early modern Europe and the Mediterranean world have begun to be inspected, though very few systematic studies of these sources have yet been undertaken. Rabbinic and community court records are fundamental not only to our understanding of Jewish autonomy and politics. They also represent a basic tool for discovering how Jewish law functioned in practice. Our goal is to incorporate these sources into the historical narrative so that we can better understand the role that Jewish and general law played in the life of individuals and their communities.

The following questions are central to the year-long investigations that are planned:

  1. Did Jews engage in forum shopping between Jewish and non-Jewish courts, how was this viewed by rabbinic and lay authorities, and where there was opposition, what were the steps taken to prevent this?

  2. Were adjustments in Jewish law (halakhah) among these steps, how familiar were Jews with general law, and did Jewish jurists incorporate aspects of general law, such as the ius commune, into their decisions?

The proposed Research Group intends to use rabbinic and lay court records to (re)define the place of Jewish law in daily life through modern legal theory and historical investigation.

Toward this end, we will place historians and legal scholars in dialogue on the substance and ramifications of these recently rediscovered sources. 

 

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2017-2018

Research Group: The Day Unit in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

humanities

[RG # 151]  The Day Unit in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

Mar 1, 2018 - Aug 1, 2018

Organizers:

Jonathan Ben-Dov (University of Haifa) 
Sacha Stern (University College London)

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This project aims to shed light on a dark corner in history, which was surprisingly very little investigated until now: how was it that the unit of ‘day’ and its primary division into 12 ‘hours’ came to ne conceived in human culture? The division seems to have been gradually developed in ancient Egypt and then migrated also to cuneiform sources from Mesopotamia. It then circulated, not quite smoothly, into the Greek world and subsequently into western late antique and medieval culture. This account remains vague because there is no comprehensive and solid research that could clarify it more pointedly.

New concepts of the division of the day required proper technological means to express them. After tracing this historical riddle, however, a lot remains to be explored for subsequent periods in history. We ask how the science and technologies of time measurement determined the structure and division of the day unit, conceptually as well as in practice, and conversely, to what extent did conceptual and practical divisions of the day unit underpin and influence the development of time measurement technologies. Time is in many ways a human construction, which requires a set of rituals and cultural agents in order to reinforce it. We aim to study these various mechanisms.

The suggested team is a unique combination of experts for the history of time in their respective fields. Such a group has never before been assembled to study this type of question. The group consists of historians of science and technology as well as of law and of religious and cultural institutions. The historical periods and geographical spread covered by the group is exceptionally wide: from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, to ancient Jewish culture (Second Temple, rabbinic) and into Medieval Judaism, Greek and Roman history, Islamic culture, and the literature of medieval Ethiopia.

 

 

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Research Group: Geometric,Topological and Computational Aspects of High-Dimensional Combinatorics

[RG # 153]  Geometric, Topological and Computational Aspects of High-Dimensional Combinatorics

Sep 1, 2017 - Jul 1, 2018

Organizers:  

Alexander Lubotzky (The Hebrew University) 
Tali Kaufman (Bar-Ilan University) 

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Combinatorics in general and the theory of expander graphs, in particular, have been fruitful areas of  interaction of pure and applied mathematics. In recent years a "high dimensional" theory has been emerged. This theory beside its intellectual interest has also a great potential for various applications in mathematics and computer science. This theory calls for a cooperation of experts in combinatorics, topology, geometry, group theory and computer science. We propose to organize a program that will bring together people from these areas in order to create a community of scholars who can cooperate on these new challenges.

 

 

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Research Group: The Subject of Antiquity: Contours and Expressions of the Self in Ancient Mediterranean Culture

physics

[RG # 152]  The Subject of Antiquity: Contours and Expressions of the Self in Ancient Mediterranean Culture

Sept. 1, 2017 - July 1, 2018

Organizers:

Ishay Rosen-Zvi (Tel Aviv University) 
Maren Niehoff (The Hebrew University)

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There is a growing scholarly consensus that new notions of the self emerged in Greco-Roman Antiquity, which prompted philosophers, artists, law-makers and biographers to conceive of human beings as individuated selves, situated in specific cultural and historical contexts. We wish to examine these emerging discourses of the self, their interaction and expressions in the material and textual culture of Greeks and Romans, Jews and Christians.

While such an intellectual project seems very much a scholarly desideratum, it is also a complex challenge, since its successful achievement is contingent upon bringing together scholars from disparate disciplines. The constraints imposed by existing academic frameworks are thus often an impediment to its realization. We believe that the Institute provides the most suitable venue for a joint venture to explore the potential of combining various areas of research in order to achieve new understandings of this phenomenon.

The proposed research group consists of leading experts and one young scholar in the fields of Greek philosophy, Roman law and literature, Early Christianity, Jewish Hellenism and rabbinics. Most of us are in the process of embarking on book projects in new areas, which require intensive collaboration with colleagues in adjacent fields. Working closely together for a period of a year will enable us to shed new light on areas and genres which have regularly been studied in isolation. We hope to highlight both shared understandings across religious boundaries as well as culturally distinct types of self-fashioning.

 

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2016-2017

Research Groups:Jewish Women’s Cultural Capital from the Late Middle Ages Through the Early Twentieth Century

 

[RG # 158]  Jewish Women’s Cultural Capital from the Late Middle Ages Through the Early Twentieth Century

September 1, 2016- July 1, 2017

Organizer:
Moshe Rosman (Bar Ilan University)

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Throughout Western history women have been assigned a status as cultural observers and social facilitators to men's roles as cultural performers and social actors. This status however, was not fixed, and cultural-social gender barriers could be crossed. Authority in the family, responsibilities in the public sphere, communal activism, economic productivity, education, ritual religious roles, literary and artistic creativity were all forms of cultural capital which could position women at intersections of power and privilege and challenge gender hierarchies. Recent decades have witnessed a revolution in the scholarship of women's history, uncovering trends that complicate accounts of the possibilities for women. However, these investigations into women’s social and cultural roles have been based predominantly on the lives of Christian women, in Europe west of the Oder, and in North America. A primary research objective of our group is to turn to communities that, both geographically and culturally, have not been properly attended to by the existing scholarship. By bringing together a group of scholars who specialize in a range of periods and locations, our research will create a framework for exploring these issues in Jewish history and their implications for other histories of women.

 

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Research Groups:From Creation to Sinai - Jewish, Christian, and Qur'anic Traditions in Interaction

mdy_hyhdut

[RG # 149]  From Creation to Sinai: Jewish, Christian, and Qur'anic Traditions in Interaction

September 1, 2016- July 1, 2017

Organizers: 
Esther Eshel (Bar-Ilan University)
Menahem Kister (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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The Book of Genesis and the beginning of the Book of Exodus are of utmost importance for many fundamental issues in the study of Judaism, Christianity, and nascent Islam. The traditions related to the narrative passages of these books refer, inter alia, to the Creation of the World, Adam as bearer of God's image, angels and demons, Enoch, Divine election, the covenants with the patriarchs prior to Sinai, the establishment of monotheism, the formation of Israel as a nation, and the Exodus. These themes were highly significant in the formulation of the competing religious worldviews and self-understanding of Second Temple and rabbinic Judaism, early Christianity, Gnosticism, and eventually early Islam. It should be emphasized that the relevant material is not confined to works dedicated expressly to the exegesis of these biblical books; rather, themes of Genesis and the beginning of Exodus are part and parcel of the religious messages of Jewish, Christian and nascent Islamic thought.

Themes and traditions from Genesis and Exodus may be found in a vast array of sources in Antiquity. The Qur'an – unlike medieval Islamic traditions – is one of the latest products of Late Antiquity. While scholarship by and large has tended toward the study of the relevant biblical themes in each religion unto itself, comparative studies transcending the boundaries between the corpora of varying religious traditions are often mutually illuminating. The group’s purpose is not merely to map and compare divergent traditions, but also to elucidate the dynamics of transformation among them, considering the relationships (including polemics and influence) among the religious groups of Antiquity. The anticipated collaboration of scholars from diverse backgrounds in the proposed Research Group will be a rare opportunity for productive synergy.
 

 

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Research Groups:Stochasticity and Control in the Dynamics and Diversity of Immune Repertoires: an Example of Multi-Cellular Co-Operation

[RG # 150]  Stochasticity and Control in the Dynamics and Diversity of Immune Repertoires: an Example of Multi-Cellular Co-Operation

March 26- June 30, 2017

Organizers: 
Uri Hershberg  (Drexel University)
Gur Yaari (Bar-Ilan University)

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We propose to study the general problems of functionality and robustness in complex biological systems, through a focus on the adaptive immune response as a model system. The adaptive immune response is a complex system, which comprises many interacting cells that are subject to various sources of stochasticity. We will address fundamental questions in the field such as how B and T cell repertoires collectively go through a process of stochastic diversity generation and clonal selection, and consistently yield functional controlled immune responses in a noisy environment. This understanding will be important in developing control strategies to modulate the immune response (e.g., with vaccinations or immune therapies) since, while predictable in the aggregate, human immune responses can display marked variability. For example, a small fraction of individuals do not raise antibodies following influenza vaccination, and efficacy rates for vaccination in older individuals are generally under 30%. Infections with West Nile virus are usually asymptomatic, but some patients experience severe neurological disease and even death. The potential role of stochasticity at different spatial and temporal scales in driving these diverse yet robus responses will be a main focus of our research group.

 

Mini Symposium Series

1st Mini Symposium Series on Stochasticity and Control in Biological Systems> 

2nd Mini Symposium Series on Stochasticity and Control in Biological Systems>

 

 

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2015-2016

Research Groups:Health and the Environment: A Unifying Framework from Individual Stress to Ecosystem Functioning

mdy_hkhyym

[RG # 147]   Health and the Environment: A Unifying Framework from Individual Stress to Ecosystem Functioning

June 1 - August 31, 2016

Organizer:
Dror Hawlena (The Hebrew University)

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Our Research Group aims to develop a general theory that provides novel, mechanistic understandings of the ways in which environmental changes regulate ecosystem processes via alteration of an animal's trophic functions.

We suggest using stress physiology as a common mechanism to scale plasticity in energy and elemental budgets at the individual level to processes occurring at the population, community and ecosystem levels. Trait expressions are shaped by evolution and are constrained by conservative biological processes. Thus, this evolutionary-based framework has much potential to reveal how ecological interactions emerge across levels of biological organization, and may assist in unifying existing, currently separated theories. Such an understanding is also crucial to better predict how human-induced rapid environmental changes will affect life-supporting ecosystem services. 

 

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Research Groups:The Legitimization of Modern Criminal Law

 

[RG # 146]  The Legitimization of Modern Criminal Law

March 1 - July 31, 2016

Organizer: 
Alon Harel (The Hebrew University)

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It is often said that criminal law faces a crisis of legitimacy: a crisis of perceived legitimacy, in that many of those who are subject to it do not regard it as author- itative; a crisis of normative legitimacy, insofar as it cannot plausibly claim the authority that it needs.

This Research Group will pursue five lines of research aimed at understanding and finding ways of responding to it. First, we take seriously the fact that criminal law is a political institution, whose legitimation must be grounded in political theory. Second, we will explore the ways in which criminal law can be differentiated from other legal and extra-legal mechanisms for regulating behavior. Third, we will examine the scope of activities that can legitimately be criminalized, since a failure to honor appropriate limitations on that scope is another source of the crisis of legitimacy. Fourth, we will examine the procedural features that are necessary for strengthening the legitimacy of criminal law. Finally, we will attend to criminal punishment, in particular the question of what modes of criminal punishment can play a legitimate role in a democratic polity. 

 

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A Lasting Vision: Dandin’s Mirror in the World of Asian Letters

[RG #145] A Lasting Vision: Dandin’s Mirror in the World of Asian Letters

September 1, 2015 - January 31, 2016

Organizer: Yigal Bronner (The Hebrew University)

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Dandin’s Mirror of Poetry (Kāvyādarśa), a Sanskrit work on poetics composed in South India around 700 CE, is one of the most influential treatises ever produced in Asia.

The work was translated and adapted into a variety of languages in the south of the Indian peninsula and the island of Sri Lanka (Kannada, Tamil, Sinhala, and Pali), travelled to Southeast Asia (Burma and Indonesia), was repeatedly translated in northern and central Asia (Tibet and Mongolia), and may even have exercised influence on poetic praxis in China. Moreover, it is hard to overstate the profound impact of Dandin’s Mirror, which, in distant corners of Asia and at different times, consistently emboldened new literary beginnings.

 

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The Poetics of Christian Performance: Prayer, Liturgy, and their Environments in East and West (5th to 11th Century)

[RG # 144] The Poetics of Christian Performance: Prayer, Liturgy, and their Environments in East and West (5th to 11th Century)

September 1, 2015 - June 30, 2016

Organizers:

Bruria Bitton-Ashkeloni (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Derek Krueger (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)

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This interdisciplinary research project is exploring the performance of prayer, liturgy, and hymns among a variety of Eastern and Western Christian traditions from the end of Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Focusing on the history and environments of worship shifts the emphasis in the comparative study of Christianity beyond the history of doctrine.

The timeline extended from the Council of Chalcedon in 451 - when the great division between Eastern Christianities took place - to the eleventh century, just before the cultural upheaval brought about by the Crusades. The geographical framework includes Christianity's religious centers - Palestine, Constantipole, and Rome - and its periphery - East Syria and Medieval France. New models of piety, the ways in which people imagined their interaction with the divine, and the rise of asceticism in the late antique Mediterranean world brought forth new conceptions and patterns of worship. Novel religious performances played a vital role in shaping Christian identities in Byzantium and the Latin West as well as encoding specific poetics and theories of how religion should function. Bringing together historians of religion, art, architecture, and music, the project is focused on religious performance as a way to re-narrate the history of Christian religious culture in the East and West in its social and intellectual contexts.

 

 

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Computability: Historical, Logical and Philosophical Foundations

[RG#143] Computability: Historical, Logical and Philosophical Foundations

September 1, 2015 - January 31, 2016

Organizers:

Jack Copeland (University of Canterbury)
Eli Dresner (Tel Aviv University)

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The theory of computability was launched in the 1930s by a group of logicians who proposed new characterizations of the ancient idea of an algorithmic process. The theoretical and philosophical work that these thinkers carried out laid the foundations for the computer revolution, and this revolution in turn fuelled the fantastic expansion of scientific knowledge in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. 

The 1930s revolution was a critical moment in the history of science: ideas conceived at that time have become cornerstones of current science and technology. Since then, many diverse computational paradigms have blossomed, and still others are the object of current theoretical enquiry - massively parallel and distributed computing, quantum computing, real-time interactive asynchronous computing, relativistic computing, hypercomputing, nano-computing, DNA computing, neuron-like computing, computing over the reals, computing involving quantum random-number generators. The list goes on; few of these forms of computation were even envisaged during the 1930s' analysis of computability.

The fundamental question tackled by the group is: do the concepts introduced by the early pioneers provide the logico-mathematical foundation for what we call computing today, or is there a need to overhaul the foundations of computing to fit the twenty-first century?

 

 

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2014-2015

Research Groups:Galicia: Literary and Historical Approaches to the Construction of a Jewish Place

[RG # 142]  Galicia: Literary and Historical Approaches to the Construction of a Jewish Place

March 1, 2014 - July 31, 2015

Organizers:

Ariel Hirschfeld (The Hebrew University)
Alan Mintz (Jewish Theological Seminary)

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Galicia, the subject of our Research Group, was an invented land, an artificial entity that acquired meaning over the course of its historical experience. Rather than being a land with a longstanding identity of its own, Galicia was created as a province of the Habsburg Monarchy as a product of the negotiations with Russia and Poland that led to the partition of Poland in 1772, and it ceased to exist as a political entity in 1918 with the defeat and dissolution of the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary and its incorporation into the new Poland.

The creation of Galicia and the incorporation of the Jewish communities of the Polish kresy (borderlands) into the new Austrian province meant enormous changes. Social and educational reforms issued from Vienna transformed aspects of Jewish life. Our research group aims not only to study the phenomenon of Galicia, but also to bring the disciplines of history and literature into dialogue.

 

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Research Groups:The Visualization of Knowledge in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods

[RG # 141] The Visualization of Knowledge in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods

September 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015

Organizers:

Marcia Kupfer (Independent Scholar, Washington DC)
Katrin Kogman Appel (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)

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The production of visual models is a cognitive mechanism integral to thought. Their invention depends on the reciprocal interaction between mental imaging and strategies of textual and graphic mediation. Such devices as lists, tables, diagrams, charts and maps do not merely compile and communicate information but also have a generative power: they formalize abstract concepts, provide grids through which to process data, set in motion analytic operations that give rise to new ideas, and create interpretive frameworks for understanding the world. The medieval and early modern periods stand as a formative era during which visual structures, imagined or materialized, increasingly shaped and systematized knowledge. Yet these periods have been sidelined as theorists interested in the epistemological potential of visual strategies have defined the field of research in terms of the modern natural sciences.

The historical approach pursued by our interdisciplinary research team offers a corrective to the current scholarly trajectory. As we analyze the fundamental principles underlying visual modes of conceptualization, we will also investigate the cultural parameters that modulated diverse applications in Jewish and Christian societies. At issue are the specific ways in which visual schema function in religious and scientific discourses, how intellectual agendas and spiritual values across confessional and cultural divides might lead to analogous or different types of devices, and the impact of exchange or appropriation on the reception and circulation of particular solutions. The chronological, geographical, and civilizational scope of our collective enterprise is unprecedented.

 

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Interpretation as a Generator of Religious Law: A Comparative Perspective

[RG # 140]  Interpretation as a Generator of Religious Law: A Comparative Perspective

Sept. 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015

Organizers:

Rami Reiner (Ben Gurion University)
Vered Noam (Tel Aviv University)

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Interpretation plays a pivotal role in the making of law, occasionally an act of its very construction. Recent scholarship has applied various hermeneutical theories to the study of authoritative legal-theological texts, and noted the impacts that post-modern approaches to interpretation may have on their investigation.

Our research group is a joint venture to explore the potential of research into the relations between the interpretive dimension and the development of Jewish tradition, from the first centuries CE up until the Middle Ages, against the broad background of similar problems and challenges with which scholars of other religious cultures (such as early Christianity, early Islam, and Hinduism) grapple. The group consists of four scholars of Jewish exegetical literature, one who is additionally an expert in jurisprudence at large, and three who are engaged in the research of law and exegesis in early Christianity, Islam and Hindu philosophy and literature. The group will examine the relationship between the exegetical and the legislative viewpoints in this wide scope of cultures and eras, both diachronically and synchronically, both as a literary and as an ideational phenomenon.

 

 

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2013-2014

2012-2013

Research Groups: The Influential Child: The Role of Children's Psychobiology and Socialization in Development

[RG # 136] The Influential Child: The Role of Children's Psychobiology and Socialization in Development

March 1, 2013- August 1, 2013

Organizers:

Maayan Davidov (The Hebrew University)
Ariel Knafo (The Hebrew University)

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The research group is comprised of developmental psychologists who have decided to explore a unique perspective within the field of child development: the influential role of children. This perspective is unusual, because the bulk of the research on children's development focuses on how the environment affects the child, not the other way around; our group has set out to examine the opposite direction of influence. This is an extraordinary, unprecendented opportunity for a team of developmental researchers to focus in depth on how children affect their social environment and actively influence their own development.

 

 

 

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Research Groups: Patterns and Processes in Organizational Networks

[RG # 133] Patterns and Processes in Organizational Networks

September 1, 2012- February 1, 2013

Organizers:

Yuval Kalish (Tel Aviv University)
Amalya Oliver (The Hebrew University)

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Organizational networks are collaborative systems between organizations that are structured to achieve certain goals. The principle rationale behind organizational networks is that no single organization can achieve its stated outcome by itself due to resource constraints. The resources that are gained from the networks are funding, capabilities, knowledge and learning, legitimacy, consulting and more. While organizations need to collaborate, there are additional factors that hinder these collaborations. These include competition, knowledge protection, free riding, opportunism, inertia, lack of trust and fragility. All these elements are embedded in the process of collaborations and are not well developed in the literature.

Organizational network research is based on sociological and strategy system theories coupled with advanced statistical and algebraic methods on the one hand, and qualitative case studies and egocentric approaches on the other. This area, while witnessing significant growth over the past several years, was mainly characterized by cross-sectional approaches (one-time measurements). The group will focus on areas that are, as yes, not well developed in the general network research fild, and specifically within the overall organizational network domain, i.e. naming patterns of organizational network processes. We have identified three main directions in organizational research - learning networks, temporary network systems and development of networks. Examples of complexities and tensions associated with processes within networks are those that exist between collaboration and competition, innovation and inertia, stability and fragility.

 

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Research Groups:Neo-Aramaic Dialectology

[RG # 135] Neo-Aramaic Dialectology: Jews, Christians, and Mandeans 

Sept. 1, 2012 - July 1, 2013

Organizer:

Steven Fassberg (The Hebrew University)
Simon Hopkins (The Hebrew University)
Hezy Mutzafy (Tel Aviv University)

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Aramaic is an endangered language, more precisely, a group of languages, that is on the verge of extinction. First attested in inscriptions from Upper Mesopotamia, northern Syria, and northern Israel at the beginning of the first millenium B.C.E., Aramaic has been spoken uninterruptedly up to the present. A century ago Kurdistan (Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish) and Iranian Azerbaijan were home to Jewish and Christian speakers of Aramaic, who had lived in these regions for over two millennia. 

Aramaic is still spoken today in three villages near Damascus (Ma'lula, Bax'a, and Jubb'adin) by Christians as well as Muslims (who converted over the past centuries from Christianity). Persecution and massacres have severely shrunk the already small native Aramaic-speaking population, and the surviving speakers have fled their original habitat and settled elsewhere, where their speech has been heavily influenced and gradually supplanted by other languages. Today, as a result, competent native speakers of most dialects are both scarce and elderly, and few of them live in a community where Aramaic is still used freely. Within a generation or so, almost all dialects of vernacular Aramaic will disappear.

This unfortunate state of affairs requires immediate action, and the goals of the research group are:

(1) To refine further the existing classifications of Neo-Aramaic dialects
(2) To exchange already collected but hitherto unpublished data in an effort to elucidate grammatical, lexical, and etymological problems
(3) To reconstruct in greater detail the historical depth of the Neo-Aramaic dialects
(4) To record additional unstudied dialects of Jewish Neo-Aramaic speakers in Israel

 

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Research Groups: Convergence and Divergence in Pentateuchal Theory: Bridging the Academic Cultures of Israel, North America, and Europe

[RG # 134] Convergence and Divergence in Pentateuchal Theory: Bridging the Academic Cultures of Israel, North America, and Europe

Sept. 1, 2012 - July 1, 2013

Organizer:

Bernard M. Levinson (University of Minnesota)
Konrad Schmid (University of Zurich)
Baruch Schwartz (The Hebrew University)

 

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The Pentateuch lies at the heart of western Humanities, and the question of the formation of the Pentateuch represents one of the foundational topics in the discipline of academic bibilical studies. Despite its importance to the discipline, recent scholarship on this question has become increasingly divided on fundamental questions like dating, the existence of literary sources, and the role of authors or editors in shaping the final document. In effect, three separate academic cultures have emerged, those of Israel, Europe and North America, each promoting its own model, and without sufficient intellectual exchange between scholars in the various communities regarding their own assumptions. Our research group was created to address this problem, to bring about greater dialogue among leading proponents of the different scholarly models, and to move towards a shared discourse.

 

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2011-2012

Molecular Electronics

[RG # 132] Molecular Electronics

June 1 - August 30, 2012

Organizer:
Amnon Aharony (Ben-Gurion University)

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Molecular electronics, one of the major fields in nanoscience, studies electronic devices based on single molecules, and on molecular networks connected to other electronic components. Its potential applications include sensors, displays, smart materials, molecular motors, logic and memory devices, molecular scale transistors and energy transduction devices. Besides being the next step in device miniaturization, molecules are able to bind to one another, recognize each other, assemble into larger structures, and exhibit dynamical stereochemistry. In addition to its technological potential, molecular electronics has raised many new fundamental questions, e.g. concerning the interactions of molecular systems with their environment and their functioning far from equilibrium.  Also, fluctuations and noise constitute an important part of the physics of such microscopic systems. At the moment there already exist several ingenious experimental realizations of transport through molecular bridges. There also exist a variety of different theoretical tools (both in chemistry and in physics) to attack the above important issues.

This group will bring together physicists and chemists, experimentalists and theoreticians, senior and young scientists, aiming to understand existing experiments, to propose new experiments (possibly combining various experimental tools) and new technological devices, using combinations of  various theoretical and experimental methods.

 

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Integrability and Gauge/String Duality

[RG # 131] Integrability and Gauge/String Duality

March 1 - May 31, 2012

Organizers:
Matthias Staudacher (Humboldt-University, Berlin)
Romuald Janik (Jagiellonian University)

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The focus of the group is on a currently intensively-studied model in theoretical physics, which has been termed by some the "hydrogen atom of the 21st century". The basic idea and goal was to construct a mathematically exact solution of an, admittedly idealized, quantum field theory of the general type as occurs in the description of the forces between our universe's elementary particles, with the notable exception of the gravitational force.

Yang-Mills gauge theory is named for its inventors, Chen Ning Yang and Robert Mills. The word gauge refers to the fact that at the heart of these theories lies a certain built-in redundancy in its mathematical description very hard to eliminate, while apparently necessary in order to properly record and understand the rules of the game. The idealized system at the focus of our group is called N=4 super Yang-Mills gauge theory. It stipulates that in addition to our standard continuous ("bosonic") spacetime dimensions, certain hidden discrete ("fermionic") dimensions exist. The number N=4 refers to the fact that this model has four such curious symmetries.

The N=4 gauge model is the most beautiful and simplest Yang-Mills theory one can come up with, even though it certainly does not directly appear in nature. It is also a deeply mysterious model, and it has become clear in recent years that it possesses further hidden symmetries as well as seemingly contradictory, alternative descriptions, which promise to allow for a complete solution of the model, at least for certain quantities and in certain limits. This is precisely what we are setting out to achieve with our program at the IIAS.

 

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Bounded Rationality

[RG # 130] Bounded Rationality: Beyond the Classical Paradigm 

March 1 - August 31, 2012

Organizer:

Elchanan Ben-Porath (The Hebrew University)

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The classical model in economic theory assumes that the economic agent is fully rational. In particular, it is assumed that the agent is aware of the set of actions that is available to him and has a correct model of the environment in which he is operating. In particular, he understands the relationship between his actions and outcomes. Any calculation or consideration that is relevant to achieve this complete understanding of the environment can be done without mistake, with no delay, and without cost. In addition, the agent has a complete and consistent preference over the set of possible outcomes and chooses the action that leads to the best outcome with respect to his preference.

This model is clearly unrealistic. A human agent is often unaware of actions, contingencies, and considerations that are relevant for the decision problem that he is facing. He often finds it difficult to form a preference (for example, to determine his trade-off between price and quality, or the trade-off between current pleasure and future welfare), and there are specific limits on his ability to process information (specifically, attention, memory, and thinking are bounded and costly). Economists have of course realized that people are subject to these limitations; however, until they were exposed to the research in cognitive psychology they did not have a concrete sense of the systematic deviations of human decision making from the rational model.

The research agenda of our group consists of two main components:

(1) Studying models of decision making that depart from the standard model and in particular take into account cognitive limitations and non-standard preferences.

(2) Studying the implications of bounded rationality in multi-person interactions, in particular, games and market economics.

 

 

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Jewish Physicians In Medieval Christian Europe: Professional Knowledge as a Cultural Change

[RG # 129] Jewish Physicians in Medieval Christian Europe: Professional Knowledge as an Agent for Cultural Change

March 1, 2012 - August 31, 2012

Organizers:

Gad Freudenthal (CNRS Paris, University of Geneva)
Reimund Leicht (The Hebrew University)

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During the Middle Ages, in Christian Europe, the religious and linguistic borders between Jews and the surrounding Christian culture always remained less permeable than those in Muslim countries, and very little knowledge was appropriated from the neighbouring Scholastic Christian culture. in the Midi (the southern area of contemporary France) hardly any philosophical or scientific works were translated from Latin into Hebrew. One could perhaps even go so far as to speak of a "Latino-phobic attitude on the part of medieval Jews of the Midi in general.

However, the field of medicine is an exception to this generalization. As far back as the 12th century, and again in the 14th and the 15th, scores of medical works were translated from Latin into Hebrew. Jewish and Christian doctors frequently cooperated with each other and treated patients together. Our research group is focusing on the macro-phenomenon of the role played by medieval doctors in bringing about a cultural transfer from Latin into Hebrew cultures, or from Christians to Jews.

Doctors hold a singular position within the social system of knowledge, since all members of all religions and cultures have similarly constructed human bodes, and all human beings, regardless of their religious and cultural backgrounds, suffer from similar illnesses and seek to be healed from these illnesses. Patients always attempt to seek out the best possible medical treatment, thus putting the Jewish doctors in constant and direct competition with the environing non-Jewish health system. Therefore, medicine was usually a unified knowledge system in which Jewish doctors were compelled to keep up with the tendencies of medicine in the host societies and "modernize".

The study of the history of "Medicine and the Jews" as part of the development of Jewish culture in its Christian European environment is much more than the study of the appropriation of professional and scientific knowledge by one specific socio-religious group. It is rather a comprehensive enquiry into the catalytic role Jewish physicians played in the processes of change which Jewish cultures underwent in southern Europe during the Middle Ages.

 

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Practical and Theoretical Rationality: A Comparative Study

[RG # 128] Practical and Theoretical Rationality: A Comparative Study

Organizer:

Ruth Weintraub (Tel-Aviv University)

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Theoretical and practical rationality are concerned with reasons, and aim to respond to normative questions: "What ought one to believe?" and "What should one do?". Theoretical rationality answers its questions by assessing and weighing reasons for beliefe and the (internal) relations among the beliefs. Arguably, theoretical reason aims at the truth of propositions. Accordingly, reasons for belief are considerations that speak in favour of propositions being worthy of acceptance insofar as one's aim in belief is the truth.

The reasons which practical rationality invokes are considerations that speak in favour of performing particular actions or adopting particular intentions and ends. And the internal relationships it appeals to are thos between means and ends on the one hand, and intentions and actions on the other.

Philosophers have always studied theoretical and practical rationality, and both topics continue to present vexing and philosophically significant questions. Many suggestive comparisons and distinctions between the two can be found in the philosophical literature. However, these insights are usually random and piecemeal; a sustained study of the relationships and differences between the two kinds of rationality is rarely conducted. Our aim is to study the similarities and differences between the two areas in a systematic way, so as to apply insights gleaned from one realm to the other, and gain a better understanding of the relationship between them and of the nature of reason in general.

 

 

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The Migration of Criminal Law Principles from National to International Law

[RG # 127] The Migration of Criminal Law Principles from National to International Law

Organizer:

Miriam Gur-Arye (The Hebrew University)

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International criminal law (ICL) is a unique branch of law, as it addresses the gravest crimes of concern to the international community as a whole through the imposition of criminal responsibility directly upon individuals (rather than upon states). ICL has become more prominent in recent years. New institutions have been created (most notably, the International Criminal Court [ICC]) and a growing number of international norms have penetrated national laws and are now applied more frequently by national courts (e.g., through the universal jurisdiction doctrine). Still, the theoretic basis of international criminal law is weak and its relationship to national criminal law is less than clear.

The aim of the research group is to examine closely the development of criminal law principles and basic notions in order to evaluate the process of migration of criminal law norms from national to international law. Our hope is that the research will provide a better understanding of the potential and shortcomings of international criminal law at the beginning of the 21st century, and serve as the basis for normative and institutional proposal reforms.

 

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2010-2011

Sovereignty, Global Justice and The Ethics of War

[RG # 126] Sovereignty, Global Justice And The Ethics Of War

March 1, 2011 - August 31, 2011

Organizer:

Eyal Benvenisti (Tel Aviv University)
Yitzhak Benbajo (Bar-Ilan University)

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In an era of globalization and massive institutional change in the international community, developing a workable set of ideas about global or international justice is one of the most important tasks facing philosophers, political theorists, lawyers and economics. Current events raise imperative political and moral questios concerning the moral standing of states and ethnocultural communities, states' rights against interventional in their internal affairs, their right to use force to protect their territorial integrity, and their right to protect their citizens or to protect citizens of other states.

Similarly, the growing interdependence among states introduces an entire set of concerns regarding global distributive justice, whereas the histories of relationships among states (colonialism, wars, secessions, etc.) suggest concerns regarding global corrective justice. These questions focus on the duties of affluent states to aid poor countries and refugees, the duties of colonial states to compensate their former colonies, the just treatment of statelessness and the just distribution of cultural rights, citizenship, residency, wealth, and the world's natural resources. These ample practical applications of global justice are what make it one of the most viable and increasingly important subfields of political philosophy.

Some of the most fundamental themes of global justice have been widely discussed in the context of just war theory. 

The research group will study three areas:

(1) The morality of the laws of war, with special attention to the institutional arrangements recommended by the statist and the cosmopolitan competing theories of just wars

(2) The statist and cosmopolitan theories of global justice, mainly distributive, but also corrective

(3) How debates between statists and cosmopolitans in these two fields -- international justice and just war theory -- are related, and how morality and the laws of war are implemented in the different conceptions of international justice.

 

 

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Cultural Archaeology of Jews and Slavs: Medieval and Early Modern Judeo-Slavic Interaction and Cross-Fertilization

[RG # 125] Cultural Archaeology of Jews and Slavs: Medieval and Early Modern Judeo-Slavic Interaction and Cross-Fertilization

March 1-August 31, 2011

Organizer:

Alexander Kulik (The Hebrew University)
Moshe Taube (The Hebrew University)

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The aim of the group is to bring together historians, philogists and scholars of comparative religion to help bring down disciplinary barriers and to show how the Slavic and the Jewish cultures can be revealed, each one of them respectively, as unique repositories of the lost texts, sensibilities, and traditions of the other's culture. It seeks to examine, on the one hand, unique data which Slavic cultures preserve on Medieval and Early Modern East European Jews, and on the other hand, key elements of Slavic cultural traditions preserved by Medieval and Early Modern East European Jews.

We will explore cultural exchange within the Khazarian-Slavic, Judeo-Greek-Church Slavonic, Old Russian-Jewish, early modern Polish-Jewish, and other cultural realms from the late 9th - early 10th celturies to late 17th - ealry 18th centuries. The topics are not limited to direct Judeo-Slavic contacts, but include, inter alia, issues such as Slavic reception of ancient Jewish sources, Slavonic Bible and pseudepigrapha, Slavonic Josephus, Biblical iconography, etc.

 

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Computation and the Brain

[RG # 124] Computation and the Brain

March 1 - August 31, 2011

Organizers:

Eli Dresner (Tel Aviv University)
Oron Shagrir (The Hebrew University)

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The concept of computation plays a major role in the current research of brain function. As Peter Stern and John Travis wrote in "Of Bytes and Brains" in Science (2006:75), "Computational neuroscience is now a mature field of research. In areas ranging from molecules to the highest brain functions, scientists use mathematical models and computer simulations to study and predict the behaviour of the nervous system". Another typical statement of the centrality of computation to the study of the brain can be found in Christof Koch's introduction to his book, The Biophysics of Computation: "The brain computes! This is accepted as a truism by the majority of neuroscientists engaged in discovering the principles employed in the design and operation of nervous systems".

However, the instrumental and explanatory role of the notion of computation in neuroscience is still in need of analysis and clarification. There are various different ways in which computational models and the notion of computation are applied in the study of the brain, and it is important for these to be distinguished and assessed. For example, as attested by the two quotations in the previous paragraph, the term "computational neuroscience" may refer to two different enterprises: Stern and Travis talk of the extensive use of computer models and simulations in the study of brain functions, while Koch gives expression to the view that the modelled system itself, i.e. the brain, computes. Both perspectives are part of what is one of the major scientific projects of our time -- the effort to explain how the brain, as a physical systme, works. However, together these two perspectives manifest a duality that is not found in other sciences, where e.g. stomachs, planetary systems, and tornadoes are studied through the use of computational models and simulations, but are not perceived as computing systems.

Thus what is called for is a systematic, philosophical analysis of the role of computation in neuroscience. What is the exact role of computer models and simulations in brain research? What is the explanatory role of the view that the brain itself performs computations? How are the two enterprises (of using computer models in brain research, and of viewing the brain as a computer) related: Do they employ the same concept of computation? Are they components of a wider exaplanatory framework? These are the questions that our research group set out to consider, discuss, and offer answers to.

 

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Algorithmic Game Theory: The Next Decade

[RG # 123] Algorithmic Game Theory: The Next Decade

March 1 - August 31, 2011

Organizers:

Michal Feldman (Tel Aviv University)
Noam Nisan (The Hebrew University)

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The last decade has seen the emergence and growth of a new interdisciplinary field of research often termed "Algorithmic Game Theory". This field lies at the crossroads of computer science, game theory, and economics; a combination which is necessary for addressing many of the challenges posed by the Internet. Not only is this field full of intellectual excitement internally, and not only has it already begun to intellectually influence the three parent disciplines, but it also has significant implications for the Internet, as evidenced by the large number of researchers in the field hired by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft.

At the approximate age of ten years, it seems that the field of Algorithmic Game Theory is maturing. The goal of this group is to elucidate the main challenges of the field and attempt to chart the future course of the field for the next decade.

Some research topics that will be explored:

- Networks with contagious risk, the different aspects of how the evaluation of the Generalized Second Price mechanisms are used for selling ads on the Internet, and the understanding of the performance of simple auctions and modeling auctions used in practice (Eva Tardos)

- Interviewing in stable matching problems and cost-sharing mechanisms (Nicole Immorlica)

- Sketching valuation functions, the equilibria of simple market mechanisms, and optimal multi-item auctions (Noam Nisan)

- Auction design for agents with uncertain, private values (Anna Karlin)

- A general framework for computing optimal correlated equilibria in compact games, computing Nash equilibria of action-graph games via support enumeration, mechanical design and auctions, and computational equilibrium analysis of voting games (Kevin Leyton-Brown)

- Envy-free mechanisms for multiunit auctions with budgets, cost sharing games with capacitated network links, and game theoretic perspectives of the facility location problem (Michal Feldman)

- Bargaining in networks (Amos Fiat)

 

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Encountering Scripture In Overlapping Cultures: Early Jewish, Christian And Muslim Strategies Of Reading And Their Contemporary Implications

[RG #121] Encountering Scripture In Overlapping Cultures: Early Jewish, Christian And Muslim Strategies Of Reading And Their Contemporary Implications

September 1, 2010 - February 28, 2011

Organizers:

Meir Bar-Asher (The Hebrew University)
Mordechai Cohen (Yeshiva University)

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Contemporary critical theory, which highlights the creative dimension of the reading process, is increasingly reorienting the study of the history of scriptural interpretation, situating it within the flux of literary and cultural movements at large. This international research group brings together scholars of Jewish, Christian and Muslim interpretation to conduct a close comparative analysis of shifting encounters with Scripture in three overlapping cultures. Drawing upon diverse yet complimentary perspectives, the participants in this group will investigate five fundamental subjects:

a. The critical role that interpretation played in the formation of Sacred Scripture;

b. Changing conceptions of the "plain sense" of Scripture;

c. The ways in which classical rhetoric and poetics informed scriptural interpretation;

d. Tensions created by the need to transplant Scripture into new linguistic media;

e. The ways in which the Bible has been reconfigured in literature, art and scholarship.

 

 

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2009-2010

Personal Versus Established Religion: Revision and Stagnation in Eastern Christian Thought and Praxis [5th-8th Centuries]

[RG #119] Personal and Institutional Religion: Christian Thought and Practice from the Fifth to the Eighth Century

September 1, 2009 - August 31, 2010

Organizers:

Brouria Bitton-Ashkelony (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Lorenzo Perrone (University of Bologna)

Ancient Arabia (from 1st Millennium BCE to the Emergence of Islam) and its Relations with the Surrounding Cultures

[RG # 118] Ancient Arabia (from the 1st Millennium BCE to the Emergence of Islam) and its Relations with the Surrounding Cultures

September 1, 2009 - July 31, 2010

Organizers:

Joseph Patrich (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Michael Lecker (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Arabia (the Arabian Peninsula) may no longer be terra incognita, but many aspects of its history remain unknown. The study of the history and culture of this territory is still in its infancy. One of the difficulties in properly evaluating the historical evidence about the ancient Near East is that modern Europeans or westerners approaching it inevitably do it with a host of confused and half-formed preconceptions about the "Orient", as Fergus Millar has noted in his book The Roman Near East 31 BC - AD 337.

In the last three decades an ever growing amount of new archaeological data, including a wealth of new inscriptions in many languages and scripts (Akkadian, Aramaic, Nabataean and South Arabian) has been gathered from sites in Saudi Arabia, the Yemen, the Persian Gulf, Sinai, the Negev, Jordan and Syria, as well as from sites of the cultures bordering with Arabia. Moreover, many texts in classical Arabic are now more accessible than ever before through various electronic media.

The group will evaluate the state of our knowledge about Arabia and the prospects for future research.

 

 

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2008-2009

Contesting Liberal Citizenship: New Debates and Alternative Forms of Democracy and State Power in Latin America

[RG #117] Contesting Liberal Citizenship: New Debates and Alternative Forms of Democracy and State Power in Latin America

March 1 - August 31, 2009

Organizers:

Mario Sznaider (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Luis Roniger (Wake Forest University)

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The goal of our research group is to examine the changing context of procedural, representative and liberal democracy in Latin America, analyze the contesting modes of democracy that have crystallized in the region, and evaluate their implications for a redefinition of citizenship models and alliances.

Latin America has long been a laboratory for comparative research. With its 20 independent polities, it provides a shared ground for systematic analysis into the resilience or breakdown of formal democracy against the background of contesting models of citizenship.

While in the days of the Cold War these models were relatively clear-cut and impacted on the region, generating the contrasting projects of reform and revolution, in the last two decades Latin America has witnessed both a renewal of democracy and the diversification of democratic experiments. The international presence of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, the election of an indigenous president in Bolivia and female presidents in Chile and Argentina, and recent policy decisions in Cuba, reflect the profound changes these countries have undergone, raising questions that are of far more than just regional interest.

Our research group brings together experts on various dimensions of citizenship in Latin America with a record in comparative research to reflect on the challenges affeting liberal democracies, as derived from the shift from corporatist to neo-liberal citizenship regimes; the increasing recognition of group rights and multiculturalism, evident with the potent rise of new indigenous movements; the emergence of participatory forms of anti-politics in situations of policy ineffectiveness and institutional collapse; the increasing use of plebiscitary democracy as a means of attaining political legitimacy; and the persistent challenge of mass citizen mobilization to existing forms of limited democracy.

 

 

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Interconnections and Regional Narratives in Mediterranean Archaeology (ca. 1700-700 BCE)

[RG #114] Interconnections and Regional Narratives in Mediterranean Archaeology (ca. 1700-700 BCE)

September 1, 2008 - February 28, 2009

Organizers:

Aren Maeir, Bar-Ilan University
Amihai Mazar, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Assaf Yasur-Landau, University of California, Santa Cruz

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The tension between pan-Mediterranean tendencies in history and archaeology as opposed to perspectives more oriented to the uniqueness of each regional narrative has seldom been discussed in relation to the Bronze and Iron Ages in the Eastern Mediterranean. Our research group will tackle key questions of trade, migration and other interactions in the eastern Mediterranean, ca. 1700-700 BCE, by reconciling insights from both studies that concentrate on regional archaeologies, with those dealing with intercultural contacts such as trade, migration, emulation, military conflicts and diplomacy.

 

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The Concept of Urban Change

[RG #116] The Concept of Urban Change

September 1, 2008 - August 31, 2009

Organizers:

Ronnie Ellenblum (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Gideon Avni (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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The past fifty years have witnessed significant development in the study of the structure of urban centers. Dozens of cities in a variety of geographic regions and cultural environments have been studied, and their shape and society reconstructed.

Concurrently, the disciplines of urban archaeology, urban geography and urban history were defined and developed, enabling an integrated study of historical sources, archaeological remains and the analysis of geographic, architectural and regional data.

However, the theoretical interpretation of ancient and historic cities is still conditioned by the chronological and sociological paradigms established as far back as the 19th and early 20th centuries. Thus, for instance, the classification of cities into Eastern, i.e. "Oriental/Muslim/Middle or Far-Eastern" cities as opposed to "Occidental", i.e. European and North American ones is based, to a large extent, on the 19th century's neo-classical interpretation of historical economy. The accepted periodization of urban history into "Biblical", "Greek", "Roman", "Medieval" or "Early Modern" periods also reflects the ideologies, theologies and identities that created them. In many cases they are culturally or ethnically conditioned and cannot be justified outside of the specific culture that created them. Urban history is sufficiently complex and continuous to sustain different cultural definitions and different types of biased periodizations. As a result, the characterization of specifically defined types of cities such as "Muslim", "Medieval" or "greek" cities became almost self-evident, and the terms themselves, let alone the periodization that created them, was rarely contested.

In light of these conceptual paradigms, our research group will examine the processes of cultural, political, social and religious changes in both past and contemporary urban contexts. Adopting a multidisciplinary apprach and a wide chronological range, the members of the group will address an array of changes in urban structures, such as the formation of new centers of political might, structural changes of the public spaces, the creation of architectural icons, and the expansion and collapse of urban tissues, all in relation to major political, cultural and religious changes.

 

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The Sociology of Contemporary Jewish Mysticism in Comparative Perspective

[RG #115] The Sociology of Contemporary Jewish Mysticism in Comparative Perspective

September 1, 2008 - August 31, 2009

Organizers:

Jonathan Garb (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Philip Wexler (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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The research group seeks to address the vibrancy of contemporary Jewish mysticism, both as a social movement and as an emerging research field, as well as the absence of comparative and social scientific study of this exciting temporary development. Our goals are to draw on the significant strength of the academic expertise of the group members in the sociology and social psychology of religion, the study of classical and contemporary Kabbalah and the comparison between mystical systems. We believe that this will serve to support and enrich the work of Israeli researchers who are exploring numerous case studies, yet without a strong theoretical and comparative foundation.

Some of the central themes we will explore include: topics in Jewish mysticism, with an emphasis on contemporary and "modern" Jewish mysticism; studies in comparative mysticism, where we will explore both historical and contemporary questions, especially in Buddhism and Christianity, but also with regard to Islam; more general issues that touch on the theory and method of the study of mysticism. Within this last category, we will explore sociological, anthropological, social psychological and psychological questions that traverse the specific traditions and modern expressions of the varieties of contemporary mysticism.

 

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2007-2008

Common Law Legal Transplants: A Comparative Historical Analysis

[RG #113] Common Law Legal Transplants: A Comparative Historical Analysis

March 1 - August 31, 2008

Organizers:

Ron Harris (Tel Aviv University)
Assaf Likhovski (Tel Aviv University)

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The goal of our research group is to examine the historical process by which common law has spread around the globe. English law and the legal systems that arose from these systems, primarily American law, have enjoyed immense success in conquering the world. Our group seeks to understand the factors assisting and inhibiting common law transplantation in the distant and more recent past. We will do so by bringing into sharp focus two specific historical examples of common legal law transplantation, to compare them to gain a better understanding of the process that we will examine. The two examples are the United States and Israel. Both countries provide instructive examples of common law transplantations, its successes and problems.

 

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Moral Psychology, Moral Motivation and Moral Realism

[RG #112] Moral Psychology, Moral Motivation and Moral Realism

March 1 - August 31, 2008

Organizer:

David Enoch (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Metaethics is the philosophical sub-discipline that does not study normative issues (such as which actions are right, what makes a life go better, etc.) but rather second-order questions, questions about (not within) morality. These include the semantics, metaphysics, epistemology, and psychology of morality (and perhaps of other normative discourse). Modern metaethics is said to have emerged at the beginning of the 20th century (perhaps with Moore's Principia Ethica), and dominated the philosophical interest in morality until the 1960s when philosophical study of first-order, normative issues became more popular and influential. But the last decade or so has witnessed a tremendous rise in the philosophical interest in metaethics.

Though not often found in the interdisciplinary literature -- metaethics (in the analytic tradition) is a fairly abstract, professional-philosophical debate -- metaethics is easily characterizable as intersubdisciplinary: one cannot seriously study the metaphysics of morals without possessing at least a good overall grasp of metaphysics; one cannot seriously study moral epistemology without at least a good overall understanding of epistemology; and similarly, it is impossible to me a metaethicist without a good grasp of major theories and arguments in the philosophy of language, mind, and action, and perhaps in aesthetics as well.

Indeed, the metaethical debate has recently become even wider in scope, for it is now widely noted that just as morality is a particular instance of a largely normative discourse, metaethics is a particular instance of metanormativity. Normative discourse also includes, for example, the part of epistemic discourse that deals with obviously normative notions such as justification, entitlement, and reasons for belief. There is a close link between the philosophical problems surrounding moral discourse and those surrounding epistemic discourse. And a comprehensive metanormative theory will need to be general enough to be applied to different kinds of normative discourses (such as morality, the normative part of epistemology, some parts of aesthetic discourse), but also to accomodate the differences between them.

 

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Towards a New History of Hasidism

[RG #110] Towards a New History of Hasidism

September 1, 2007 - August 21, 2008

Organizer:

David Assaf (Tel Aviv University)

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Any survey of modern Jewish culture is bound to feature Hasidism -- the most prominent Jewish revival movement of the past three centuries. This revival, which took its spiritual inspiration from the Jewish mystical tradition, began in the middle of the eighteenth century with small circles of individual mystics in the region of the Polish Carpathian Mountains. It spread through the Jewish population of Eastern Europe, and in the course of the nineteenth century became a mass movement. By the final decades of the century, Hasidism was carried by the tide of mass Jewish emigration from Eastern Europe, establishing itself in various outposts in Palestine and the West. The decimation of European Jewry in the Holocaust took a heavy toll on the movement and its leaders, and yet, since the second half of the twentieth century, it has been enjoying an unexpected revival.

Against this background of remarkable resilience, successful transplantation and postwar resurrection, Hasidism has long been the subject of conflicting evaluations. It attracted the admiration of neo-Romantic authors and poets, while being denigrated and even demonized in modern historiography. Under the impact of Jewish Enlightenment values, nineteenth and early twentieth century historians viewed Hasidism as the expression of obscurantist religious fanaticism, obstructing Jewish integration in modern European society and culture. 

Sweeping political and cultural changes marking the second half of the twentieth century -- the Holocaust, the establishment of the State of Israel, the Cold War and the collapse of communism -- have inevitably altered the scholarly perspective on Hasidism. In particular, the opening up of Eastern European archives following the fall of communism, and the current multicultural discourse in which religion, once again, features as a fundamental aspect of human experience, have given rise to revisionist academic research.

Hasidic scholarship of the past three decades reflects these changes, but much of it has been fragmented, with individual scholars working in descrete disciplines, each tackling an aspect of the subject from the point of view of his or her own particular field of research. The idea of bringing together a group of leading scholars of Hasidism, who would be drawn from a variety of academic disciplines and employ a wide range of methodologies, sprang from the recognition that the Hasidic movement is a complex cultural phenomenon that cannot be properly understood within the framework of any one field of enquiry. The aim of the group is to break down the disciplinary boundaries that keep apart our respective approaches to Hasidism. We hope to integrate, for the first time, all the Hasidic scholarship of recent years, so as to establish a common basis for future research.

 

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2006-2007

Transmission and Appropriation of the Secular Sciences and Philosophy in Medieval Judaism: Comparative Perspectives, Universal and National Aspects

[RG #108] Transmission and Appropriation of the Secular Sciences and Philosophy in Medieval Judaism: Comparative Perspectives, Universal and National Aspects

March 1 - August 31, 2007

Organizers:

Gad Freudenthal (CNRS, Paris)
Ruth Glasner (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Our project will focus on the study of the patterns of transmission to, and appropriation by, medieval Jewish cultures of Greek-Arabic thought, with special emphasis on a comparison with the parallel processes in the Muslim-Arabic and Christian-Latin cultures. The group will study different aspects of the absorption of originally Greek knowledge (mainly but not only scientific and philosophical ideas) within the different medieval Jewish cultures in the Mediterranean between the 8th and the 15th centuries, and examine the role played by Jews in knowledge transfer from Europe to the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. These processes are worthy of study, not only in and of themselves, but also as a reexamination, comparatively speaking, of the varying accounts offered for the Muslim-Arabic and Christian-Latin cases, based on the role of institutions of learning. The absence of similar institutions in Jewish cultures affords the possibility of "controlling" the thesis that what allowed Western Europe to lead the way from medieval science to the scientific revolution was the institutionalization of learning within that society.

 

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Combinatorics of Polytopes and Complexes: Relations with Topology and Algebra

[RG #109] Combinatorics of Polytopes and Complexes: Relations with Topology and Algebra

March 1 - August 31, 2007

Organizer:

Gil Kalai (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Polytopes have intrigued mathematicians since ancient times. The ancient Egyptians knew quite a bit of the geometry of polytopes, and the pyramids are, of course, a special type of polytopes. The ancient Greeks discovered the five platonic solids. The five platonic solids: note that the Icosahedron is dual to the Dodecahedron, the Cube is dual to the Octahedron and the Tetrahdron is self-dual.

Euler, who can be regarded as the father of modern graph theory, proved a remarkable formula that explains the relationship between combinatorics and polytopes.  Euler's formula asserts that: for every polytope in space with V vertices, E edges and F faces: V - E + F = 2

For example, for the cube, V = 8, E = 12, and F = 6 and indeed 8 - 12 + 16 = 2.

Euler's formula is one of the most important formulae is mathematics and can be regarded as a starting point for topology.

Polytopes in dimensions higher than three have been studied since the 19th century. The first rigorous proof of an extension of Euler's formula for higher dimension was obtained by Poincaré. Poincaré used tools from algabraic topology, a new subject of study that he himself developed. It turns out that Euler's formula is closely related to topology, an important part of geometry.

The research group will explore the following topics: the important and mysterious notion of "duality" between polytopes; the notion of "valuations" of convex sets; random polytopes and complexes; the relationships between combinatorics and topology; the "rigidity" of graphs; and metric aspects of polytopes.

 

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Charity and Piety in the Middle East in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Continuity and Transformation

[RG #107] Charity and Piety in the Middle East in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Continuity and Transformation

September 1, 2006 - February 28, 2007

Organizers:

Miriam Frenkel (Ben-Zvi Institute)
Yaacov Lev (Bar-Ilan University)

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Charity needs to be understood as deeply embedded in, and shaped by, the existing society's religious, social and cultural context. Charity is also capable of molding social structures and their attendant mental attitudes. Therefore, the group's basic assumption is that research on charity as a concept and as an institution may offer a promising way to understand a given culture and the changes it undergoes. In addition, it is also assumed that charity offers a valuable perspective from which to view historical change and intercultural encounters.

Charity practices create and give shape to individual social institutions. They may have a crucial impact upon rulers' policies and public image, and affect patterns of social solidarity, stratification and social control. They are capable of impinging upon the social position of individuals, the place ascribed to family, religious institutions and civil society, as well as influencing economic and daily life and certain aspects of the life cycle.

At the discursive level charity may both reflect and shape worldviews and concepts. It is a field in which social values and norms are competing and being tested. This discourse is conveyed in theological, liturgical, literary and documentary texts which may express the image of the ideal society, the ways in which societies treat the "other", and how they interpret such basic aspects of life as wealth, poverty, work, destiny, individuality etc.

We will ask the basic questions that might assist us in analyzing charity from various perspectives: What were the motivations for giving charity? Who were the recipients of charity? Who were the agents of charity distribution? What was the place of charity in society, its relation to religious institutions, gender, family structures, etc.? These questions have been presented in the past but only sporadically, and they were never applied to a number of interrelated cultures over a vast span of time. In dealing with these questions we will attempt to bridge over eras and cultures that are normally perceived as distinct and separate.

 

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The Interface Between Evolutionary Biology and Game Theory

[RG #106] The Interface Between Evolutionary Biology and Game Theory

September 1, 2006 - August 31, 2007

Organizers:

Sergiu Hart (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Avi Shmida (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Our research group will focus on addressing fundamental questions in ecology and evolutionary biology, using the modeling tools of game theory. In particular, the group will examine the topics of the evolution of sexual reproduction, the evolution of communication and signaling, and evolutionary dynamics.

The phenomenon of "warning colours" in poisonous insects, reptiles, and plants is one of the examples that can be used to demonstrate how biology and game theory can interact. Poisonous animals and plants are well known for their conspicuous contrasting colours. This is interpreted as the signal that indicates "I am poisonous, don't eat me". The question is, can we trust this signal? Biologists have studied this topic for decades, attempting to explain why "cheaters" -- non-poisonous animals with conspicuous colours -- are rare. This question will be tackled from a different standpoint, where perhaps the conspicuous animal does not warn its predator, but rather signals it to "come and inspect me". Other investigations will deal with mechanisms that can explain patterns of morphology, systematical and also behavioural, by using game-theoretic models.

 

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Movement Ecology: Establishing a Novel Interdisciplinary Field of Research to Explore the Causes, Patterns, Mechanisms and Consequences of Organism Movements

[RG #105] Movement Ecology: Establishing a Novel Interdisciplinary Field of Research to Explore the Causes, Patterns, Mechanisms and Consequences of Organism Movements

September 1, 2006 - August 31, 2007

Organizer:

Ran Nathan (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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We begin our research with the premise that movement is virtually a condition of life, as all living organisms move at some stage of their lives. There have been at least 25,000 papers published in the last decade on various aspects of movement, both in the ecological and allied biological literatures, but this field of study -- while extremely active, indeed growing -- still lacks a coherent focus. Previous attempts to provide this focus have moved the field along incrementally, but it can still be said that the literature consists of a voluminous collection of loosely related work, and the field is still defined more by what large numbers of people are doing individually rather than by any sense of a coherent field.

We aim to develop a coherent representation that captures the essential features of movement in terms of casual components, goals, information requirements and capacities, around which future studies could be organized and from which predictable consequences could be established for all sorts of organisms. This would be a launching pad for mathematical modeling, hypothesis generation, measurement and data analysis -- a coherent basis reaching from first principles to consequences, and allowing prediction and testing in real world situations. The four elements of the framework are the internal state of the organism, its movement and navigation mechanisms, and the external factors affecting the system, all resulting in the final movement behaviour and trajectory.

Once the framework has been developed, we can develop qualitative mathematical machinery that will allow us to simulate movement patterns under various explicit assumptions abot the four basic components of our conceptual model. If we can simulate under different scenarios, we can predict. If we can predict, we can compare prediction with observation, and we can test hypotheses about the model itself and our construction of it as being representative of reality.

 

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2005-2006

Occult Powers and Officiants in Non-official Cults within Near Eastern Cultures

[RG #104] Occult Powers and Officiants in Non-official Cults within Near Eastern Cultures

March 1 - August 31, 2006
Organizers:

Gideon Bohak (Tel Aviv University)
Yuval Harari (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)
Shaul Shaked (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Magic is a notoriously ambiguous term to define and set apart, but magical texts seem to display a remarkable degree of similarlity in different cultures, languages and historical periods. If the study of Babylonian, Greek, Jewish and Muslim magical texts raises many recurrent problems, the solutions offered in one discipline can often prove worthwhile in other disciplines as well. By focusing on cultures that are geographically related, and between which there existed some channels of cross-cultural transmission, we can trace not only phenomenological similaries, but also geographical and historical continuities and transformations over long periods of time.

One thing shared by all the cultures covered by members of our group is the assumption that there are many occult powers out there (be they demonds, angels, gods, natural forces etc.)|, and that some men and women are better equipped than others to approach these forces and use them for their own aims. Moreover, members of all these cultures took it for granted that there is a body of knowledge (of special rituals, powerful incantations and so on) that can be mastered by competent individuals and that enable them to use these occult forces more effectively. This body of knowledge, and the social tensions involved in using it, are the main focus of all the group's members and the basis of our comparative efforts.

 

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Ethnography and Literature: Theory, History and Interdisciplinary Practice

[RG #103] Ethnography and Literature: Theory, History and Interdisciplinary Practice

September 1, 2005 - February 28, 2006

Organizers:

Galit Hasan-Rokem (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Carola Hilfrich (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Ilana Pardes (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Our research group aims to contribute to the growing body of research on the nexus of ethnography and literature.

 

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Religion and Nationalism in the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Hindu Worlds

[RG #102] Religion and Nationalism in Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Hindu Worlds

September 1, 2005 - February 28, 2006

Organizers:

Hedva Ben-Israel (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Yosef Salmon (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)
Emmanuel Sivan (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Nationalism is one of the prominent subjects in scholarly discourse. There is a great deal of disagreement over its origins, essence, impact and degree of historical "naturalness", as well as its connection with religion. This relationship is riddled with paradox. Nationalism and religion appear sometimes as related and sometimes as opposed forces. Many historians and social scientists tend to see nationalism as a modern, political and secular phenomenon prompted by social and economic conditions that could emerge only after the decline of religion and as a substitute for it. Our choice of subject was prompted partly by the academic controversy and partly by contemporary cases where nationalist fervor and religious devotion are found together. It is also apparent that more historians are finding that in the past, too, many cases of nationalism were allied with religion or inspired by it. The purpose of our group is to compare the role of the three monotheistic religions and Hinduism in different cases of nationalism.

 

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Muʿtazilism within Islam and Judaism

[RG #101] Muʿtazilism within Islam and Judaism

September 1, 2005 - August 31, 2006

Organizers:

Wilferd Madelung (University of Oxford)
Sabine Schmidtke (Free University of Berlin)

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The Muʿtazila was a rationalist school of Islamic theology and one of the important currents of Islamic thought. Muʿtazilīs stressed the primacy of reason and free will and maintained that good and evil can be known solely through human reason. The beginnings of the Muʿtazila were in the 8th century, and their classic period of development was from the 9th until the middle of the 11th century. While it briefly enjoyed the status of an official theology, over the centuries the Muʿtazila fell out of favour in Sunnī Islam and had largely disappeared by the 14th century. Their influence, however, continued to be felt in two groups: Shīʿī Islam and Karaite Judaism. There has been a trend in the 20th century to revive Muʿtazilī thought, particularly in Egypt. The Neo-Muʿtazilīs are attracted by the Muʿtazilī affirmation of reason and free will, which they see as a basis for intellectual liberty and modernity. Muʿtazilī thought also had a major impact on Jewish theologians, both Rabbanite and Karaite, from the 10th through the 12th centuries.

Muʿtazilī works were evidently not widely copied, and few manuscripts have survived. So little authentic Muʿtazilī literature was available that until the publication of some texts in the 1960s, Muʿtazilī doctrine was known mostly through the works of its opponents. While Muʿtazilī manuscripts have not been preserved in large quantities, most of the material that has survived has not yet been utilized or published. Muʿtazilī manuscripts have survived largely by two means: Yeminite public and private libraries, and the Firkovitch Collections in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, which came mostly from the manuscript storeroom of the Karaite synagogue in Cairo. In the early 1950s numerous manuscripts were discovered in Yemen that included the works of various representatives of the Muʿtazilī school of Abū Hāshim al-Jubbāʾī (d.933), the Bahshamiyya, which were subequently edited in Egypt during the 1960s.

The goal of our study group is to examine, identify and edit as many as possible of the Muʿtazilī writings and fragments scattered in the various Muslim and Jewish repositories around the world, in order to broaden our understanding of rational theology in Islam and its reception among Rabbanite and particularly Karaite Jews.

 

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2004-2005

One People, Scattered: The Role of Communication in Holding the Jewish Diaspora Together, 200-2000 AD

[RG #98] One People, Scattered: The Role of Communication in Holding the Jewish Diaspora Together, 200-2000 AD

September 1, 2004 - August 31, 2005

Organizer:

Menahem Blondheim (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Our group sets out to address an ancient problem from a new perspective. The problem, which has intrigued and been debated for centuries, is Jewish survival as a people in exile, dispersed over the four corners of the earth since antiquity. The proposition we set out to explore is that effective communication, over time and across space, was key to the survival of Jews as "one people, scattered" (Book of Esther, 3:8), forming what many consider "the mother of all diasporas".

Beyond approaching a major hisorical quantary in a new way, we are also developing a novel scholarly agenda. This agenda is the re-understanding of Jewish civilization from a communications perspective and, more generally, proposing that history and communications be studied jointly. History, after all, aspires to trace all aspects of human life and understand it in all its complexity. Communication is one significant, albeit neglected, aspect of human history; but in addition, it is a potential key to grasping and untangling historical complexity. For by its nature, communication is the story of linkages, of interconnections and interrelations. It may therefore serve as a central site, anchoring a multifaceted perspective on historical development in all its richness. At the same time history, which is the great warehouse of human experience, can serve as the ultimate database, and a giant multifunction laboratory for testing, fine-tuning and even generating ideas and theories about communication.

 

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Foundations of Technology-Assisted Trading

[RG #99] Foundations of Technology-Assisted Trading

September 1, 2004 - August 31, 2004

Organizers:

Daniel Lehmann (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Motty Perry (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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The emergence of the Internet, about half a decade ago, is causing significant changes to society at large and to several academic disciplines in particular. Technologically-Assisted Trading (known colloquially as e-commerce) is now becoming a focus of increasing research interest at the boundary between Economics and Computer Science. While the first boom-and-bust cycle of these changes has passed, it is clear that profound changes still await us and that it will take society some time to fully develop all the consequences as well as adopt many of the new technical possibilities.

The group will conduct a program of interdisciplinary research on one of the most important new possibilities opened up by the internet: electronic commerce. Which much practical work has been done on the "mechanics" of electronic conmmerce (communication protocols, security, software tools, cash transfers, etc.), less attention has been paid to understand the nature of the content that is is supposed to be delivered by these "mechanics". In other words, what are the economic mechanisms that will or should be implemented by such "mechanics"?

We believe that there are theoretical foundations for electronic commerce and that the time is ripe to start formulating them.

 

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Literary Dimensions of Medieval Jewish Religious Discourse

[RG #100] Literary Dimensions of Medieval Jewish Religious Discourse

September 1, 2004 - February 28, 2005

Organizer:

Ronit Meroz (Tel Aviv University)

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The goal of this study group is to explore religious systems by scrutinizing the meeting point -- within the cultural context -- of the religious discourse and the literary means chosen to express it; to raise such questions as the relations between different genres and their religious or ideational system, or their social, historical and cultural context.

 

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2003-2004

On the Nature of Jewish Belonging in Contemporary Times: New Trends in the Study of American and Israeli Jewry

[RG #96] On the Nature of Jewish Belonging in Contemporary Times: New Trends in the Study of American and Israeli Jewry

March 1 - June 30, 2004

Organizers:

Steven Cohen (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Harvey Goldberg (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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The aim of our research group is to analyze new trends in the study of American and Israeli Jewry. This task will involve the documentation and intepretation of recent emerging trends in how people choose to express Jewish life and affiliate with other Jews, as well as thinking about familiar forms of Jewish diversity in new ways. We will explore the processes of historical development, as well as dynamic negotiation and choices made by Jews as individuals and as groups in forming the striking range of forms that characterize contemporary Jewish "belonging".

 

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Law and Pluralism

[RG #97] Law and Pluralism

March 1 - August 31, 2004

Organizer:

Alon Harel (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Our research group will explore the following topics:

  • The religious aspects of legal systems.
  • Conceptions of secularism, the specificity of Indian secularism, and the extent to which secularism might be considered a Western, Christian doctrine.
  • Global justice, and caution in the attempts to extend the principles of distributive justice to the global sphere.
  • Establishing universal features of criminal law that would be applied in the International Criminal Court and other international tribunals.
  • Issues of political import and relevance to Israeli society.
  • The relations between values and rights in the constitutional context.
  • An analysis of the later drafts of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, drafted over the months April and May of 1948.

 

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Toward a History of Sanskrit Poetry: Innovations and Turning Points

[RG #94] Toward a History of Sanskrit Poetry: Innovations and Turning Points

September 1, 2003 - August 31, 2004

Organizer:

Yigal Bronner (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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It is quite amazing that no proper history exists for Sanskrit belles lettres, one of the world's richest and longest literary traditions. The scholarship of the last two and a half centuries yielded, for the most part, a vast body of data on authors and their putative dates. But it failed to produce a narrative explaining developments in their poetic practice and, quite often, denied outright the very possibility of change. Indeed, the number of serious and analytical essays on representative works from the Sanskritic canon is unbelievably small. The main purpose of our research group is to begin to emend this state of affairs and produce a history of Sanskrit literature, one that, contrary to the antihistorical notion of it as monolithic and immune to change, would concentrate on innovations and turning points.

 

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A Study of Palestinian Arabic Dialects

[RG #95] A Study of Palestinian Arabic Dialects

September 1, 2003 - February 29, 2004

Organizer:

Rafi Talmon (University of Haifa)

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The group's work will concentrate on compiling a representative corpus of texts from the various geographical areas of northern and central Israel -- namely, Upper and Lower Galilee, the northern coast, the Jordan Valley, Emeq Yizree, the Carmel Mount and Carmel coast, the Triangle, Jaffa, and the Central Plains -- as well as from the Samaritans and the rural population around Jerusalem. 

 

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2002-2003

Greeks, Romans, Jews and Others in the Near East from Alexander to Muhammad: A Civilization of Epigraphy

[RG #91] Greeks, Romans, Jews and Others in the Near East from Alexander to Muhammad: A Civilization of Epigraphy

September 1, 2002 - August 31, 2003

Organizers:

Hannah Cotton (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Jonathan Price (Tel Aviv University)
David Wasserstein (Tel Aviv University)

2001-2002

Human Paleoecology in the Levantine Corridor

[RG #87] Human Paleoecology in the Levantine Corridor

March 1, 2002 – August 31, 2002

Organizer:

Naama Goren-Inbar (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Few areas of the world have played as prominent a role in human evolution as the Levantine Corridor, a comparatively narrow strip of land sandwiched between the Mediterranean Sea on the west and the expanse of inhospitable desert to the east. The first hominids to leave Africa, over 1.5 million years ago, first entered the Levant before spreading into what is now Europe and Asia. About 100,000 years ago another African exodus, this time of anatomically modern humans, colonized the Levant before expanding into Eurasia. Toward the end of the Pleistocene, this Corridor also witnessed some of the earliest steps toward economic and social intensification, perhaps the most radical change in hominid lifestyle that ultimately paved the way for sedentary communities wholly dependent on domestic animals and cultivated plants.

 

 

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Biblical Hebrew in its Northwest Semitic Setting: Typological and Historical Perspectives

[RG #86] Biblical Hebrew in its Northwest Semitic Setting: Typological and Historical Perspectives

October 1, 2001 – September 30, 2002

Organizers:

Steven Fassberg (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Avi Hurvitz (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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In 1961 William L. Moran published “The Hebrew Language in Its Northwest Semitic Background” (The Bible and the Ancient Near East: Essays in Honor of William Foxwell Albright, ed. G. Ernest Wright). In it, Moran presented a state-of-the-art description of the linguistic milieu out of which Biblical Hebrew developed. He stressed the features found in earlier Northwest Semitic languages that are similar to Hebrew, and he demonstrated how the study of those languages sheds light on Biblical Hebrew. More than forty years have passed since the publication of William L. Moran’s now classic description of Hebrew in the light of its Northwest Semitic background. Since the late 1950’s, when the article was written, our knowledge of both Northwest Semitic and the Hebrew of the biblical period has increased considerably.

Our research group will convene to undertake research in the light of the significant advances in the study of Biblical Hebrew and Northwest Semitic in the past four decades.

 

 

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2000-2001

From Hellenistic Judaism to Christian Hellenism

[RG #81] From Hellenistic Judaism to Christian Hellenism

September 1, 2000 - June 30, 2001

Organizers:

David Satran (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Daniel R. Schwartz (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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No problem has so stubbornly accompanied the investigation of Second Temple period Judaism and of early Christianity -- and the nature of the relationship between the two -- as that of "Hellenism". How deeply were both Judaism and Christianity in their formative stages influenced by the larger cultural and religious streams of the Greco-Roman age? To what extent did the phenomenon of "Hellenism" -- in its varied literary, social and political expression -- shape the defining characteristics of Jewish and Christian belief and practice in the period between Alexander and Constantine? What role did the medium of the Greek language and of Hellenistic cultural forms play in the translation of ideas and allegiances from Judaism to Christianity during the early centuries of the Common Era?

Our group will focus on precisely this problem and these questions, addressing the pendular tendency of modern scholarship to wholeheartedly affirm or passionately deny the hellenization of early Judaism and Christianity. The general orientation of recent research has been toward the Palestinian Jewish background of the early Church, with a clear proclivity for sources preserved in either Hebrew or Aramaic. In light of this trend, we will attempt to reassess the role of Greek-speaking, Hellenistic Judaism as a fertile context for Christian origins.

 

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Molecular Medicine in the Service of Mankind: Towards the 2000s

[RG #82] Molecular Medicine in the Service of Mankind: Towards the 2000s

November 1, 2000 - January 31, 2001

Organizer:

Alexander Levitzki (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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The group on molecular medicine focused on the role of the new developments in molecular biology and biochemistry in the revolution in medicine which is now taking place. These new developments, including the publication of the human genome, create new opportunities for the improvement of human health. The group's work will concentrate on the ramifications of these technological revolutions for new approaches to the treatment of various cancers and other diseases in which cellular communications fail. 

The group will focus primarily on the molecular mechanisms of cell signaling, that is, how cells communicate between themselves and how cells transmit information into the cell. The group will also explore ways to remedy the aberrations in these communication networks which occur in the course of disease. The knowledge of how cell communication works will allow the development of novel therapies.

 

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Millennial Pursuits - Apocalyptic Traditions and Expectations of the End among Medieval Jews and their Neighbors

[RG #83] Millennial Pursuits - Apocalyptic Traditions and Expectations of the End among Medieval Jews and their Neighbors

November 2000 - February 2001

Organizers:

Jeremy Cohen (Tel Aviv University)
Ora Limor (The Open University of Israel)

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Our group originated in the conviction that a community's expectations of the end constitute a vital sign -- perhaps one of its most potent agents of social change -- and that the continuing role of religious tradition in nourishing those beliefs warrants scholarly attention. We took our point of departure from the premise that the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam from late antiquity until the end of the Middle Ages affords a singularly instructive context for the study of eschatology and its socio-cultural significance. This period is proverbially known as the "age of faith" in the annals of Western and Mediterranean civilization, when membership in society was defined first and foremost by one's religious affiliation, and when the prophetic ideals pervading the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Quran undergirded virtually all expressions of cultural creativity. Talmudic and medieval Jews, perennially obsessed with their displacement in galut, diaspora, cultivated numerous permutations of the messianic idea as a basis for persevering in Christian and Muslim societies; as Gershom Scholem aptly noted, they lived their lives largely "in deferment", finding fulfillment in hope for the future rather than in the realities of the present.

Eschatological creativity, however, was not limited to an alienated Jewish minority. Apocalyptic literature and spirituality flowered in patristic and medieval Christianity, among the empowered and the orthodox who identified with the prevailing establishments, as well as among the disenchanted who could not find a satisfying niche in prevailing social structures and institutions. Though often overlooked in recent scholarship, Muslim apocalyptic proved consequential, as well, and eschatological differences highlighted the rift between Sunni and Shi'ite communities. In the worldview shared by the Jews with the Christian and Muslim majorities around them, eschatology provided the basis for a comprehensive reading of history; in its longing for future, it imbued both past and present with significance. So deeply embedded was messianic expectation in the fabric of medieval experience that cultural historian Georges Duby, in his provocative book, An 1000, An 2000, 1995, has sought to unravel our modern premillennial predicament in the terms of its medieval precedents.

Our research will study the messianic expectations of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Europe and the Middle East from the conversion of Constantine to the Sabbatean messianic movement (4th-17th centuries). While the modern study of eschatology and millennialism has progressed fruitfully within numerous academic disciplines, our group will provide a forum for historical research and conversation, incorporating historians of religion, ideas, and art.

 

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1999-2000

The Interaction of Nomadic Conquerors with Sedentary Peoples: Turco-Mongolian Nomads in China and the Middle East

[RG #80] The Interaction of Nomadic Conquerors with Sedentary Peoples: Turco-Mongolian Nomads in China and the Middle East

February - August 2000

Organizers:

Reuven Amitai (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Michal Biran (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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The encounter between "barbarian" conquerors with sedentary peoples possessing sophisticated cultural and political traditions is one of profound historical importance. The interaction has resulted in great cultural, religious, political, linguistic and demographic changes, in which inter alia whole previously distinct groups can disappear, not so much through physical destruction, but rather through assimilation and absorption. One such meeting of enormous dimensions was that of the Roman world with the various Germanic invaders. Another would be that of the Byzantine and Persian territories overrun by the Arab Muslim armies of the 7th century. While there is still much debate among historians about the exact nature of these encounters, there is no doubt that the resulting influence was not in one direction, but both sides were greatly affected by this experience. It is also clear that these meetings left an indelible impact on the further development of these two regions.

A different set of encounters is that of the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppe with their sedentary neighbours in the later Middle Ages, i.e. the Turkish and Mongol invasions of the Middle East in the 11th-14th centuries and the Khitan, Jurchen and Mongol invasions of China in the late 10th to mid-14th centuries. In the aftermath of all these instances, nomadic elites established long-term control over large swathes of the territory of sedentary society. Our research group seeks to examine the effects of this encounter in a comparative way, diachronically in the same territory and synchronically between the Islamic Middle East and China.

 

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Asymptotic Group Theory

[RG #79] Asymptotic Group Theory

February 15 - August 15, 2000

Organizers:

Avinoam Mann (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Aner Shalev (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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This research group will explore the following topics:

Infinite groups:
- Branch groups and automata groups, their subgroups, representations, presentations, and subgroup growth
- Zeta functions of nilpotent groups
- Rigid groups
- Redidual properties of the modular group

Finite groups:
- Asymptotic aspects of finite simple groups, and probabilistic aspects in particular
- Generation, and random generation, of finite simple groups
- Algorithms for matrix groups

 

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Mechanisms of Canon-Making in Ancient Societies

[RG #78] Mechanisms of Canon-Making in Ancient Societies

August 1999 - January 2000

Organizers:

Margalit Finkelberg (Tel Aviv University)
Guy G. Stroumsa (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Our group will examine the mechanisms by which cultural and religious canons were formed, functioned and went through radical transformations in various societies of the ancient world. We hope that a better understanding of these processes, arising from such juxtaposing of diverse cultural models of canonization, has shed a new light upon the fundamental structures of religious and cultural canons adopted in different civilizations.

Odd as it may appear, there seems to have been no single comparative study of canons. This was not what could be expected at the dawn of the historical scholarship two hundred years ago. When Friedrich August Wolf, with his Prolegomena ad Homerum, opened the era of Homeric scholarship in 1795, he used a model which was being developed at the time for the study of the Old Testament. The fact that the two main constituents of the Western Canon, the ancient Israelite canonical text as represented by the Hebrew Bible, and the ancient Greek canonical text as represented by the Homeric poems, were being studied side by side was seen as only too natural at the time. This fruitful collaboration was interrupted, never to be revived again, in the first half of the 19th century, when the “discovery” of Sanskrit, instead of stimulating a pluralistic approach to the widening spectrum of ancient civilizations, gave rise to the idea of an Indo-European cultural unity exclusive to the world of the Old Testament and if the ancient Near East in general. To resume the process at the point where it stopped, and thus to supersede the mutual isolation between civilizations of the ancient world which was artificially created thereby, is one of our objectives.

Similarly, the study of the other canonization processes in the ancient world, and in particular in late antiquity, seems to be in need of fresh approaches. While in the last fifty years, since the discoveries of Qumran and Nag Hammadi, dramatic new insights into the canonization processes of these texts have been provided, relatively little has been done in terms of comparison. Moreover, and perhaps

more importantly, very little attention has been paid to the fact that various canonization processes in late antiquity did not develop independently of one another, but are linked in dialectical relationships. The canonization of the Mishna, for instance, should be seen in parallel to that of the contemporary canonization of the New Testament: both were meant to provide a key to the correct understanding of the Old Testament, which both the Jewish and Christian communities claimed as their own.

The main question which brought about the establishment of the research group was the perceived chasm between the “Greek” (and the Latin) and the “Hebrew” (i.e. the Jewish-Christian) traditions. The first is usually perceived to be more “literary” by nature, while the second would be essentially “religious”. We will attempt to develop a coherent and precise language that will permit us to use the same tools in order to analyse together these rather different traditions.

 

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Law and the State in Classical Islam

[RG #77] Law and the State in Classical Islam

September 1999 - February 2000

Organizers:

Yohanan Friedmann (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Nurit Tsafrir (Tel Aviv University)

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The study of Islam has been at the cutting edge of Islamic studies in recent years. The development of Islamic law beyond the Qur’ānic stage, the rise of the schools of law (madhābib) and their geographic spread, the relationship between the rulers and the jurists, the amount of freedom enjoyed by the jurists in the development of the law – all these are being subjected to intensive scrutiny.

An important question is the development of Islamic law from the Qur’ānic layer in early Islamic history, through the books of the 8th and 9th centuries, to the great compendia of later periods. It was accepted until recently that the early Muslim jurists derived the law from the Qur’ān and the prophetic tradition (hadith) during the first 250 years of Islamic history by way of individual reasoning. According to this view, the freedom to exercise individual reasoning gradually shrank and the jurists relied more and more on the decisions of the predecessors. These decisions were collected in large compendia and gradually acquired unquestionable authority. At the end of this process, in the 10th century CE, the right of individual reasoning disappeared totally and Islamic law lost its ability to adapt itself to the changing historical circumstances. If this theory is correct, a book of law written, for instance, in the 12th century cannot be used as a document reflecting the social and legal situation in the period in which it was written, but rather the legal tradition which prevailed in the 9th century and has remained stagnant ever since.

Recently, various scholars began to question the validity of this description and to argue that the “gates of individual reasoning” never closed and Islamic law has never lost its flexibility or ability to develop. The study of this question is a challenge for scholars of Islam. Islamic law is perceived as immutable because it is believed to represent the divine will. It therefore stands to reason that later jurists, even if they wanted to introduce changes into the law, invested much effort to present their views as identical with those of their forebears, or, at least, as derived from them. This is the reason why books of law from different periods appear very similar to each other. In order to discern changes which may have occurred in a certain field of law, it is imperative to examine numerous sources from different periods and compare them to the compendia of tradition and law from the 8th and 9th centuries. If we learn that Islamic law continued to develop throughout Islamic history, then books of law written in later centuries are of much greater value than that ascribed to them so far: they constitute historical documents which can shed new light not only on the development of law, but also on the social situation of the areas and periods in which these books were written.

This is one of the fields in which we will conduct research. Another is the study of the development of Islamic law in various areas of the Islamic world in different periods, as well as in the differences between the various schools of law on specific issues.

 

 

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1998-1999

1997-1998

The Foundations of Physics

[RG #71] The Foundations of Physics

February - August 1998

Organizers:

Yakir Aharonov (Tel Aviv University)

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Two major revolutions in physics took place at the beginning of twentieth century: the discoveries of quantum theory and general relativity. Both theories are extremely successful in their domains of applicability, and yet they are incompatible. Therefore, a deeper theory which would give quantum theory and general relativity as suitable approximations is needed. But attempts to obtain this deeper theory, called quantum gravity, which we hope would also unify all the fundamental interactions, have so far not been successful, despite the work of many brilliant physicists for more than seven decades.

While there are no conceptual problems in understanding general relativity, this is not true of quantum theory. The real difficulty in understanding and interpreting quantum theory may be the reason why we have not yet obtained the deeper theory. One of the first conceptual problems to arise during the creation of quantum theory was the wave/particle duality of light and matter. For example, when a photon strikes a photographic plate, it creates a localized spot as if it were a particle. Yet the same photon when it is constituent of a light wave has a wave aspect. All other particles, such as the electron, neutron and proton, exhibit this wave/particle duality as well.

 

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The Historicity of Emotions

[RG #72] The Historicity of Emotions

February - August 1998

Organizers:

Michael Heyd (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Yosef Kaplan (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Can emotions be historicized? Are they universal and biologically determined or socially determined, culturally dependent and varying through history? What is the role of emotions and their changing character in the course of history? Is there a history of emotions just as there is a history of ideas, of manners, of political institutions or social movements? More specifically, to what extent can love, fear or hate be historicized? Do they change through history, and if so, in what senses? Is it in the objects they relate to? (Fear of what? Hate – towards whom?) In the means and legitimacy of expressing them? In the ways they are institutionalized (families, churches, political parties)? Can emotions themselves be separated from these social and cultural means of expressing and legitimizing them?

Though some historians have posed these questions earlier, it is only recently, in the 1970s and especially since the early 1980s, that historians have begun to address these questions directly. Interestingly enough, the early 1980s were also the time when psychologists, especially social psychologists, became increasingly aware not only of the issues of affects and emotions in general, but of their historical dimension, namely their possibly changing nature, as well.

Our group will try to deal with some of these questions, focusing mostly on the late medieval and early modern period, both in Christian Europe and in Jewish communities in Europe at that time. The comparison between Jewish and Christian societies will add an important dimension to the research.

 

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Semantics

[RG #69] Semantics

August 1997 - February 1998

Organizers:

Edit Doron (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Fred Landman (Tel Aviv University)

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Semantics, the study of semantic competence, is that part of linguistic theory that deals with the interpretation of natural language expressions. Semantics is a theory of the faculty of native speakers to interpret their language.

Semantic competence is a highly structured system, and research in semantics over the last twenty years has made progress in trying to uncover this structure and its general principles. The foundational principles of semantic theory, first formulated a century ago by the German mathematician and philosopher of language Frege, are aboutness and compositionality. Aboutness means that semantics studies the relations between linguistics expressions and the world as structured by our cognitive system, and, as part of this, the context of use for each expression. Compositionality means that the semantic interpretation of a complex expression – for example, a sentence – is determined by interpretation of its parts and by the operations that put those parts together. While semantics is popularly thought of as the study of the meanings of words, in fact semantic theory mostly focuses on the semantic operations that combine words into sentences and sentences into discourse.

In the last fifteen years, five areas of research have been exceptionally prominent. First, with the advent of the theory of discourse representation (initiated by Hans Kamp and Irene Heim), much work has been done on quantificational and anaphoric phenomena beyond the sentence level. Simultaneously, Mats Rooth initiated the systematic study of the semantic effects of the discourse notion of focus, and Martin Stokhof and Jeroen Groenendijk developed the study of the semantics of questions. Second, the theory of generalized quantifiers (initiated by Jon Barwise, Robin Cooper and Edward Keenan) has uncovered a wealth of systematic constraints in the determiner system of natural language. Third, the theory of singular and plural individuals (initiated by Godehard Link) has considerably deepened our understanding of the semantics of plurality, in particular with respect to distributive, collective and cumulative interpretations of noun phrases. The theory of kinds developed by Gregory Carlson has contributed to the understanding of the semantics of mass terms and other kind-denoting expressions. Fourth, the theory of events (originating in the work of Donald Davidson in the sixties) has simulated research on a variety of topics, in particular in the study of aspect, such as the semantics of the progressive and perfective. Fifth, theory of Logical Form, initiated by the work of Noam Chomsky, has contributed to research on the syntax-semantics interface.

Most importantly, these areas do not develop in isolation from each other: cross-fertilization between them has been, and continues to be highly successful and promising. Our group will concentrate precisely on the areas of cross-fertilization.

 

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Orthodoxy Through the 19th Century

[RG #70] Orthodoxy Through the 19th Century

September 1997 - February 1998 

Organizer:

Yosef Salmon (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)

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During the nineteenth century, Ashkenazi Jewish society in Europe underwent a radical transformation. Until this point, the Jews had constituted a religious-national minority, divided into local communities with more or less homogenous social and religious institutions. Now, large sectors of the Jewish public reorganized themselves into new social frameworks and divided into religious streams. The beginnings of this process can be seen already in the second half of the eighteenth century with the rise of Hasidism, but it was only during the next hundred years that the trend became more institutionalized and variegated. The main currents that crystallized included Reform, Orthodox and Conservative Judaism. Each current encompassed sub-groups which resulted from the various social and historical contexts in which these streams developed. The process included internal splits and competition as well as independent developments within each movement. Beginning in Germany at the start of the nineteenth century, the phenomenon spread to Bohemia, Hungary, England and the United States, reaching Eastern Europe toward the end of the century.

Whereas the Reform and Conservative movements have basked in the historiographical limelight for decades, Orthodoxy has received serious attention as a subject worthy of historical research only during the last twenty years. The late Prof. Jacob Katz defined the phenomenon and encouraged his students to investigate it. In his opinion, Jewish Orthodoxy emerged at the end of the eighteenth century as a response to the challenges of modernity in general, and to the other Jewish religious currents in particular. The strengthening of Orthodoxy in recent years has stimulated research into its historical roots.

Over the years, Orthodoxy itself evolved and became more diversified in its responses to the challenges presented by other Jewish religious trends (Reform and Positive-Historical Judaism in Germany, Neologism in Hungary) and Jewish social movements, especially in Eastern Europe (Zionism and Jewish Socialism). Zionism added a new aspect to the problem of modernity: the question of how to relate to Zionist activity in the Land of Israel and specifically whether to cooperate with “errant” Jews in this regard. In addition, Zionism invested messianic aspirations with new meaning. At the same time, Orthodoxy was essentially a reaction to the secularization of Jewish society, a subject which has not yet been sufficiently analysed and evaluated in historical research.

 

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1996-1997

1995-1996

Chirality of Drugs and Chiral Recognition

[RG #65] Chirality of Drugs and Chiral Recognition

November 1995 - August 1996

Organizer:

Israel Agranat (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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The notion of chirality has emerged as a major theme in drug design and discovery. Many of the new chiral drugs are being developed as single enantiomers. Chiral recognition is one of the most significant topics of contemporary stereochemical studies and is an essential component of pharmacological events.

 

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Visual Culture and Modern Jewish Society

[RG #64] Visual Culture and Modern Jewish Society

February - August 1996

Organizers:

Richard Cohen (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Ezra Mendelsohn (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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This Research Group is composed of scholars in a number of disciplines: art history, Jewish history, theatre, sociology and anthropology. All are interested in the ways in which the study of modern Jewish society can be advanced through a study of visual images, ranging from high art to caricatures, exhibitions in museums and world fairs and the stage. Another principle concern in to examine how certain images can be better understood by placing them in their proper Jewish context.

 

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Meeting of Cultures in the Hellenistic Roman World

[RG #63] Meeting of Cultures in the Hellenistic Roman World

September 1995 - August 1996

Organizers: 

Uriel Rappaport (University of Haifa)
Israel Shatzman (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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The Research Group will explore a wide range of historical and cultural themes relating to the Mediterranean world in Hellenistic and Roman times. The disciplines of history, palaeography, archaeology, numismatics, legal history, Talmudic studies and classical philology will all play a key role in deepening the group's research.

 

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1994-1995

1993-1994

1992-1993

Interreligious Polemics

[RG #54] Interreligious Polemics

September 1, 1992 - February 28, 1993

Organizer:

Hava Lazarus-Yafeh (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
R. J. Z. Werblowsky (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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1991-1992

1990-1991

1989-1990

1988-1989

1987-1988

1986-1987

1985-1986

1984-1985

1983-1984

1982-1983

1981-1982

1980-1981

Model Theory

[RG #18] Model Theory

Organizer:

Saharon Shelah (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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1979-1980

1978-1979

1977-1978

1976-1977

Monetary Economics

[RG #4] Monetary Economics

Organizers:

Don Patinkin (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Menahem E. Yaari (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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1975-1976

Ergodic Theory

[RG #2] Ergodic Theory

Organizers:

Hillel Furstenberg (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Donald S. Ornstein (Stanford University)
Benjamin Weiss (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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