This Forum sets out to contribute to the understanding of anthropologists’ identification with their discipline, the homogeneity of anthropologists as an academic group, and how our disciplinary boundaries are constructed and embodied. It provides different angles on the academic demarcations influencing how anthropology is practiced in Europe. Four colleagues explore different ways of questioning the boundaries of our discipline, opening up spaces for remaking anthropology (what can be said and done, and by whom).
Anthropological Boundaries at Work
Battle Missives in the Israel Defense Forces
What exhortations were given to Israeli soldiers when sent to a possible sacrifice of their lives in war? This article introduces the genre of ‘battle missives’ written by Israel Defense Force (IDF) commanders as a prism to investigate this question. Battle missives are short texts sent to soldiers on the eve of battle to mobilize them to fight and to justify the risk to their lives. I employ narrative and hermeneutic methods to analyze an original database of 289 missives written between 1948 and 2014, which reveal the changing motivations and justifications preceding combat. My findings indicate a move from ‘Jewish sentimental’ exhortations that prevailed from 1948 until 1973 toward ‘rational’ exhortations between 1982 and 2014. This study locates battle missives as key to understanding the social norms and values relating to sacrifice in war, and the ways in which military commanders adjusted the language of sacrifice to reflect major transformations in both Israeli society and the IDF.
Contemporary Trends in Religious-Zionism
This article presents an innovative sociological framework to discuss recent social, ideological, and religious trends within the Religious-Zionist sector in Israel. The article challenges the prevalent conceptualization of Religious-Zionism as a sui generis ideology. Contrary to researchers who emphasize the synthesis of religion and Zionism in the Religious-Zionist ideology, the author argues that the Religious-Zionist identity is based primarily on social connections (kinship, geographical, institutional) between the members of the group. The author uses this approach to make sense of recent Religious-Zionist trends: post-Zionism, the ‘religious-lite’, Orthodox feminism, and neo-liberalism.
On the Usefulness of Boundary Re-work
Boundaries influence how we live, the way we do and see things – but how? What role do boundaries play in effecting disciplinary shifts or stability in turn? And who is excluded when tracing epistemic frontiers and hard notions of relevance? This theme issue discusses the porosity of anthropology's borders and the difficulty of establishing scholarly authority. We set out to reopen the conversation about the permeability of academic boundaries, exploring different conceptual, methodological and historical reconfigurations with and within European anthropologies. We also discuss how the epistemic and institutional boundaries of our discipline are changing, affecting in turn what people can know and with whom, as well as our sense of professional strength and vulnerability.
Policing and the Juridification of Soldiering
Eyal Ben-Ari and Uzi Ben-Shalom
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) routinely rotate ground forces in and out of the Occupied Territories in the West Bank. While these troops are trained for soldiering in high-intensity wars, in the Territories they have long had to carry out a variety of policing activities. These activities often exist in tension with their soldierly training and ethos, both of which center on violent encounters. IDF ground forces have adapted to this situation by maintaining a hierarchy of ‘logics of action’, in which handling potentially hostile encounters takes precedence over other forms of policing. Over time, this hierarchy has been adapted to the changed nature of contemporary conflict, in which soldiering is increasingly exposed to multiple forms of media, monitoring, and juridification. To maintain its public legitimacy and institutional autonomy, the IDF has had to adapt to the changes imposed on it by creating multiple mechanisms of force generation and control of soldierly action.
Boundary Work as Production of Disciplinary Uniqueness
This article deals with the hegemony of Anglo-Saxon social anthropology over the anthropologies of the South and its neighbour discipline, European ethnology. It departs from a description of my personal professional experience during the last thirty years to discuss how the disciplinary capacity of influence (and shadowing) is linked to political decisions, the definition of what is scientific, and the instrumental use of rankings and evaluations.
Since 1967, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been engaged in various military missions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including occasional high-intensity fighting and counter-insurgency, as well as civilian duties, such as administration and policing. While existing literature emphasizes the organizational and professional burden this combination of duties places on the military, the actual forces that shape soldiers’ policing practices in the field remain largely unexamined. The present article offers a micro-sociological examination of the patterns of military policing implemented by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank. It explores the social and political forces that shape soldiers’ ‘logics of action’ and demonstrates the reciprocal relations between the IDF's disparate modes of policing of Jewish settlers and Palestinians. Three clusters of factors shape these interrelations: the relationships between soldiers and settlers, the blurring between ‘security’ and ‘civilian’ missions, and situational variables. The research for this article was conducted between 2004 and 2018.
Examining the activities of the Israel Defense Forces along the Gaza-Israel border, this article identifies a new phase in what the author calls ‘military-police fusion’. The analysis focuses on novel technologies—remote-controlled weapon stations and unmanned ground vehicles—and on the women soldiers who operate these systems. The central claim is that the blurring of boundaries between military and policing missions, combined with high-tech weaponry, has resulted in the development and implementation of new modes of violence that are currently undergoing a process of redefinition and feminization. The article addresses three key dimensions of the processes occurring in the hybrid operational environment along the Gaza-Israel border: the legal dimension, the technological dimension, and the gender dimension.
The Absent Concept of Policing and Its Substitutes in Israeli Military Doctrine
The Israeli army's policing since 1967 has raised public awareness of the suffering of the Palestinian population, thereby implicating it as a key player in the Israeli political debate. This article discusses how policing has been presented in the leading military journals Ma'arakhot and Bein HaKtavim from 1967 to 2018. It argues that this coverage has served to mitigate the controversy by avoiding the explicit term ‘policing’ and replacing it with euphemisms that construct it differently in three distinct periods. In particular, since early in the twenty-first century, these journals have suggested alternative terms, which provide policing with hybrid military connotations that respond to pressure from both nationalist and liberal groups. New terms such as ‘the war between the wars’ promote broad public acceptance of the intractable nature of the conflict and legitimize the need to use violence.
Urban Inventories and the Mutation of the Postsocialist City
This article asks how a post-Soviet city went global and became something else, mutating, in the sense of generating a new set of features that go beyond a narrow understanding of postsocialism. The research provides a synthetic conceptualisation of Narva and the organisation of its ordinary life, by combining methods of urban observation and classification with geographical and ethnographic descriptions of this city. Using visual imagery of urban objects, along with field annotations and interview quotes as the materials analysed, the article carries out a Narvaology that consists in deploying this city ‘as method’. It points out that cities such as Narva require a more relational and multi-scalar language, one with broader theoretical and methodological implications, able to account for fragmentary socio-political issues.