Selected Journal Articles

Anthropology Today 33(6): 11-15

Exile at Home: A Matter of Being Out of Place

This article employs Hannah Arendt’s theorizing about assimilation to consider how sovereign citizens of a nation state might nevertheless experience a sense of exile. It builds on Aziza Khazzoom’s notion of a ‘chain of Orientalism’ to suggest that the assimilation of Europe’s Jews to Enlightenment ideals has had ongoing repercussions among Jews in the modern state of Israel. The article focuses on what it means to be Jewish in terms of religious observance, and who feels at home in the Jewish state. Employing vignettes from recent ethnographic fieldwork, it raises questions about the modern nation state’s capacity to create conditions in which its own ‘people’ can flourish. In this case, Israel has claimed to make it possible for the Jews to flourish, in Arendt’s terms, ‘as Jews’, but it is far from clear what ‘as Jews’ would, could or should mean. This leads the author to suggest that Israel has a Jewish problem.

Anthropology Today 31(1):8-

There Will Always Be a Gaza War: Duration, Abduction, and Intractable Conflict 

This article reflects on the idea of intractable violence in Palestine/Israel by considering the work of temporality. It considers the latest round of intense violence during the summer 2014 Gaza war in terms of Henri Bergson’s notion of ‘duration’, in conversation with Steve Caton’s reflections on conflict and duration during his fieldwork in Yemen. Duration provides insight into how collective publics understand, interpret and act in situations of intense conflict; how these knowledges and actions are influenced, discerned but not predetermined, by the way memory shapes perception.

Theory, Culture & Society 30(3): 29–60 2013

Anachronism and Morality: Israeli Settlement, Palestinian Nationalism, and Human Liberation

This article is concerned with how the idea of anachronism can interfere with our thinking about social justice, peace, and human liberation. In the case of Israel/ Palestine the idea of anachronism is deployed among liberals, progressives and radical theorists, and activists seeking peace and social justice who express animosity toward religiously motivated settlers and their settlement project. One of the ways in which they differentiate themselves from these settlers is by suggesting that settler actions belong to the past. They also pity Palestinians conceived of as stuck in an oppressive system of settler colonialism that also belongs to the past, preventing them from moving forward. Both perceptions of anachronism limit the ways we can think about human liberation and peace. This article sheds light on a conundrum about who or what belongs to the past, and how thinking in such terms can contribute to the production of a particular moral collective and to the production of enmity. Both perceptions of anachronism frame history as a kind of progress in which peoples or groups might be ranked according to their levels of civilizational attainment, an idea we abandoned long ago as an analytical tool, but seem to have retained as a matter of practical political sympathy and judgment. This temporal conditioning can interfere with the thinking of even some of the most progressive social theorists, and mimics a colonial impulse.

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Comparative Studies in Society and History 2010;52(3):581–603.

On Demonized Muslims and Vilified
Jews: Between Theory and Politics

In this article I engage the work of three scholars, each of whom speaks to reactions to Muslims or interventions in their lives in the United States and Europe. Each is critical of these reactions and interventions, and traces them to inconsistencies in liberal thought and practice. My purpose is to interrogate their theorizing by applying it to the interface of liberalism with another religious Other, one that tends to generate far less sympathy in the predominantly secular and liberal academy: religiously motivated Jewish settlers in Israeli-occupied territories. The first scholar is Saba Mahmood, who recently argued against U.S. involvement in trying to alter the theology and practices of Muslims in the Middle East. The second is Judith Butler, who in a 2008 article addressed Muslims in the Netherlands, the problems of citizenship, and the right to religious freedom. Finally, Talal Asad has spoken to issues of violence, arguing that suicide bombing is really not so different from state violences perpetrated by the United States and Israel. Each of their arguments contains critiques of secular liberalism and the contradictory ethics and inconsistencies within liberal thought and practice, and each carries different but related implications. My intent is to begin to explore the possibilities of applying the analyses of these writers to the case of conflict between religiously motivated settlers in Israeli-occupied territories and left-wing, secular, and liberal Israeli Jews. Although this case mirrors broader representations of “Islam and the West,” it is rarely considered in comparison when such representations are deconstructed. The questions raised through this uncomfortable comparison will, I hope, contribute to broader conversations about the challenges and complexities of living together with differences that may be threatening if not altogether incommensurable.

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