Research Groups

Research Groups: Contextualizing the Cult of the Southern Levant in the Greco-Roman Period: Monotheism and Polytheism between Continuity and Change

[RG # 139] Contextualizing the Cult of the Southern Levant in the Greco-Roman Period: Monotheism and Polytheism between Continuity and Change

Sept. 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014


Oren Tal (Tel Aviv University)
Zeev Weiss (The Hebrew University)

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


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


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


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


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

March 1, 2020 – July 30, 2020


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


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


[RG # 161] Constitutional Transplantations

November 1, 2019 – January 31, 2020


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


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


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

September 1, 2019 - January 31, 2020


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


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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