Dissertation Abstracts

Orientalism, Zionism, and the Academic Everyday: Middle Eastern ‎and Islamic Studies in Israeli Universities.‎

Author: Clyne, Eyal Z, eyal.clyne@gmail.com
University: The University of Manchester, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Erica Burman
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Orientalism and Zionism , ideology and discourse , ethnography of academia , capitalist culture
Areas of Research: Education , Institutional Ethnography , Professional Groups


This ‎is a transdisciplinary ethnographic socio-analysis of an academic discipline, and its relations with its colonial condition, general society, and global academic trends. My thesis combines (semiotic) discourse analysis with anthropological historiography to explore the political in [Jewish-]Israeli Middle East studies.

The study deconstructs layers of social and political presumptions reflected in the narratives, ‎documents and observations I collected. Through observations and decoding of discourse I argue that the field functions as an academic industry, and then I ask about its products, producers, consumers, etc. I also argue that it is powerful ‎agents/agencies and dynamics in society, such as national security agencies (broadly defined), ‎securitism, cultural-Capitalism, orientalism, socio-politics and the ‘demand’ for certain cultural ‎products - all translate into directing experts on teh Middle East generally, and in academia too. i.e. that the social import of ‘mizraḥanut’ (literally: orientalism) in the Israeli-Jewish society pervades and shapes the local academic field in a mutual relationship.

At the same time, ‎international academic trends and the field’s ties with, and dependency on global academia, and ‎particularly American academia, are also highly influential, and Israeli Middle East scholars try to balance ‎these potentially conflicting influences. I nevertheless argue that when the two are in tension, the ‎field tends to prefer its Zionist properties over it being part of a global academic group; that is, that ‎academic-mizraḥanut is mizraḥanist before it is academic.‎

My project is composed of two empirical parts, one of history and one of ideology.

The historical part explores the social-genealogy of the field using 'ethnographic history,' where I narrate the evolution of the field through a socio-political prism. In this part I enter into two discussions. The first is responding to a narration of the field as a Jewish-Germanic tradition which had an emphatic approach to the East. Here I look into the praxis of work with or for the Zionist establishment between the 1940s and the 1970s, and appreciate its dissociation from the first generation. The second discussion looks at the arrival of the Crisis of Representation to the field through a similar prism, and argue that the field subvert radical options, and that agents from different streams co-operate in protecting the field.

The second part is an ideology/discourse analysis, and it also includes two interventions. The first views the field not through its (post?-)coloniality but as affected by (local) academic culture and praxis, and particularly by market-culture. It particularly problematises and thoerises the creation of 'public' and 'interest,' through analysing tropes and metaphors. The second discussion uses similar tools to look into the field's self-proclaimed 'public mission,' and think of the field though its particular political-cultural conditions, and most importantly, through its limited abilities to compete with powerful agencies.

I also contribute to the conceptualisation of transdiciplinary methods.