Introduction to Ethnic Relations

The course focuses on ethnic, national and racial cleavages. It presents a conceptual, theoretical and comparative framework for analysis of divided societies in Israel, United States, Switzerland, South Africa and Northern Ireland.


Comparative Ethnic Relations

The seminar discusses theory and research on relations between ethnic, national and racial groups worldwide. A comparative approach is applied for analysis of questions of conflicts, accommodation and stability in ethnically divided societies. Issues include perspectives on ethnicity and nationalism, modes of conflict-management, how different types of democracy (liberal, consociational, ethnic) cope with ethnic and national conflicts, assimilation and multiculturalism, immigration and transnationalism, Diaspora and transnational communities, ethnic identities and politics, ethnic autonomy, and minorities and internal security. Various case studies are examined.

Israeli Society

The course presents a macro-sociological, historical, comparative and critical approach to selected areas of life in Israeli society. It focuses on the question in which ways and to what extent Israel is Western and secular and becoming so. Topics cover a conceptual framework for a comparative study of Israeli society (boundaries, comparisons, controversial issues, and theoretical perspectives), distinct features and exceptionalism, the formative period, demography, culture, religion, politics, political economy, military, the Israeli-Arab conflict, internal divisions and conflicts (between socioeconomic strata, religious and secular, Arabs and Jews, right and left), and long-term changes.

Divisions and Conflicts in Israel

The course focuses on selected social cleavages in Israel in its pre-1967 borders and on the implications of the state‚Äôs Jewish and democratic character for conflict-management and political stability. An analysis of the controversy over the meanings of democracy and the secular and religious interpretation of Jewishness and Zionism is made. A theoretical, historical and comparative framework for the study of internal conflicts is presented and applied to the divisions between the political right and left, poor and rich, women and men, religious and secular, immigrants and oldtimers, Mizrahi and Ashkenazic Jews, Arabs and Jews, aliens and citizens, and non-Zionists and Zionists (these simple dichotomies are used for illustration only and the analysis goes much beyond). The question whether Israel is multicultural in its ethos and the barriers for achieving full-fledged multiculturalism is discussed.

Jewish and Israeli Identities

The course discusses the questions: Who and what is a Jew? How one can be an ethnic or self-identifying Jew and a Jew without religion or religiosity? How secular and religious Jewishness is conceived and practiced in both Israel and the Diaspora? How secular and religious Jews of different denominations pass their Jewish heritage to the next generation? The focus is on comparison between Israel and the Diaspora (the United States and Europe) with regard to secular and religious expressions of Jewishness in the modern and post-modern eras. The approach is sociological, comparative, historical and philosophical. Special attention is given to the three sets of historical forces that have shaped Jewish identity: (1) secularism and modernism-postmodernism, (2) anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, and (3) Zionism and the State of Israel. The relative centrality of ethnic descent, religion, religiosity, language, culture, nation (peoplehood) and citizenship in Jewish identity are linked to the differences in location (Israel versus Diaspora) and to the specific characteristics of the Jewish community. Streams of Jewish public thought, historical transformation of Jewishness, and contemporary attitudes and behavior related to Jewishness are surveyed.

Independent Study of Non-Dominant Groups in Israel

Individual supervision in writing a term paper on one of the non-dominant groups in Israel, including women, the old, people in the lower strata, ultra-Orthodox Jews, Arab citizens, Mizrahim (non-European Jews), Russian immigrants, Ethiopian immigrants, non-citizen foreign workers, and homosexuals and Lesbians.