Course code:



I - Introductory

Meets the following requirements:

  • HS - Human Studies

Typically offered:


This course focuses on the concept of Israel as a Jewish state and as a liberal democracy.

This means that we will both be examining what is singular about Israel, and addressing concepts of the nation-state and liberal democracy more broadly. How can thinking about Israel help us think about the relationship between the nation-state and the concept and treatment of difference? Asking this question through the example of Israel will put other terms into question, including citizen, origin, genocide, value, rights, equality, individual, sovereignty and subjectivity.

As we examine these concepts, we will address gender, ethnic, national, economic and linguistic difference in the contexts of Zionism, Israel, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Thus, while the course does not focus explicitly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by the end of the semester students should have gained critical thinking skills with which to analyze it should they be so inclined.

The goal of this course is not to convince students to be more or less sympathetic to any of the myriad political positions that exist with regard to Israel/Palestine. Rather, the aim of this course is to provide conceptual tools with which students can think critically about the concepts through which Israel/Palestine is not only represented but also through which the place and the people who live there come into being in all of their materiality and affect. In particular, we will pay attention to questions of origin, representation, and how the relation between individual and group is understood. Hopefully, such critical thinking skills will serve students well not only in efforts to understand the different forms of violence through which Israel is defined, but also in addressing questions of intellectual, social and political significance other than those directly related to Israel/Palestine.

This is an interdisciplinary course, and we will be drawing on work in anthropology, feminist theory, literature, psychoanalysis, postcolonial studies, political theory, and history. We will also be reading from novels, listening to music, and watching films. The course is divided into three sections. The first section is focused on the political context of 1890s-1930s Europe.

We will situate the development of the Zionist movement by thinking about it in relation to psychoanalysis and in relation to the different forms of socialism and international feminisms emerging at the time. The second section is focused on World War II and its immediate aftermath. We will address the event of the Holocaust, political and philosophical responses to it, questions of origin, representation, the law and justice. The third section focuses on the concept and contexts of Israel post-1948. We will ask about the significance of different forms of difference both in terms of Israel’s contemporary contexts and in terms of the weight of their genealogies.

Students will be evaluated based on attendance, in-class participation, one letter to the editor, reading responses, and two short analytical essays.



Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.