Is Israeli democracy in danger? One often hears nowadays that it is. It is worth recalling how often, and how confidently, this has been asserted in the past. Since May 1977, when the right-wing religious coalition first came to power, it has been claimed repeatedly that Israel’s democracy is deteriorating and some form of clerical fascism is emerging. In the aftermath of the 1977 election a member of the outgoing Labor government burned his papers, fearing what might happen if they fall into the new regime’s hands. These fears, then, were not confined to some radical fringe. In a somewhat less dramatic fashion I shared and voiced them too.
Forum 2000 in Prague – 1997 and 1998
Albert H. Friedlander
In September 1997 Vaclav Havel and Elie Wiesel called together the great thinkers and leaders of the world to look at the year 2000 and to share their thoughts for the future of the world. Nine Nobel Prize winners, at least ten former presidents or current leaders of countries, and spiritual thinkers representing the religions of the world assembled in Prague, met for five days in a splendid castle, and tried to make some informed statements about the future of the world after the millennium. In October 1998, most of the speakers met again in Prague.
As congregational rabbis, or in any other role, those gathered here have taught, guided, supported and accompanied people through all the stages of their lives; shared their times of joy, and been quietly or actively present, often for long periods, in times of sadness or tragedy. This is self-evident, and each individual rabbi, has an endless series of stories to tell. But the collective effect is quite overwhelming. So what is needed to enable us to continue this task, this vocation, to empower those who come after us?
The article is a personal reflection, originally given as a sermon, on lessons learned from the experience of being a straight member of Beit Klal Yisrael. Beit Klal Yisrael is a largely, though not exclusively, LGBTQ Jewish community in West London, founded by Rabbi Sheila Shulman. The author found there no need to be part of a couple or a family, and no need to explain or apologize for her non-Jewish background. Community members understood that ties of affection, of choice and of shared lived experience were as significant as those of blood or socially recognized relationships.
On Data-Mining, Crowd-Sourcing and White Noise
The main concern of this article is with the ways in which technologies of data-mining and crowd-sourcing have made it possible for citizens to contribute to the expansion of infectious disease surveillance as both a concrete practice and a compelling fantasy. But I am less interested in participation as such, and more concerned with the epistemological effects that this technological mediation might have for the possibility of epidemic events to become shared objects of knowledge. What happens with epidemic events when they become targets of data-mining and crowd-sourcing technologies?
Time-Tricking and the Limits of Temporal Play in Children’s Online Film-Making
Children in Norway increasingly spend time online, where they play games, create and share videos and hang out with friends. Drawing on fieldwork among immigrant families in Norway, this article investigates the use of avatars to facilitate temporal play in children’s online film-making. By creating animated films starring their own and their friends’ avatars, children playfully engage with a wide range of imagined future selves. Avatars constitute on-screen extensions of selves, allowing inhabitants of online environments to explore and experiment with otherwise inaccessible viewpoints and perspectives. Addressing the limits of time-tricking in children’s temporal play, the article shows how offline conventions shape what avatars can do.
David F. Patton
In the 2009 German federal election, the small parties together captured 43.2 percent of the vote; three small parties boasted a result in the double digits. Four years later, none of the small parties finished above 8.6 percent and only two reentered the Bundestag. Notably, the FDP, one of the original West German parties, dropped out of the federal parliament for the first time. Yet, any talk of catch-all party revival and party system concentration needs qualification. As a group, the small parties received nearly a third of all votes cast—the second highest share in six decades. Those that did not make it into the Bundestag won 15.7 percent, a higher share than in any other federal election. This article examines the positioning of the leading small parties in the 2013 Bundestag election campaign and their respective electoral results; highlights party systemic as well as internal party factors to explain small party performance; reassesses the commonplace classification of small parties by whether there is an established legislative presence or not; and considers the positioning and performance of small parties in the years to come.
Discretion and hypertransparency in Chinese biosecurity
Katherine A. Mason
In this article I argue that the global biosecurity project that arose out of the events of the SARS epidemic of 2003 created a new balance of secrecy and transparency within the public health arm of the Chinese state. In an effort to meet national and international demands for greater transparency in support of a “common good,” local public health officials engaged in what I call hypertransparency. This hypertransparency took two forms: the real-time online sharing of disease incidence data within the public health bureaucracy, and the over-performance of disease fighting strategies in front of a wider local and global public. Because local Chinese officials interpreted the “common good” differently from their international partners, neither of these efforts succeeded in erasing the crucial role that local officials continued to play in determining what should and should not be shared, and with whom. Secrecy continued to be an important component of China’s securitization efforts, with hypertransparency ultimately concealing more than it revealed.
Mary Ellen Lamb
Included in a work revealingly titled Terrors of the Night, Nashe’s reminiscence from childhood reveals the extent to which he had become a full communicant in the superstitious mysteries shared by the old women of his childhood. As Adam Fox has noted for this and other passages, ‘At the juvenile level… the repertoire of unlearned village women coincided for a brief but significant period with that of the educated male elite’. As Nashe’s evocative title suggests, however, these repertoires did more than coincide. The ‘witchcrafts’ that Nashe valued enough as a boy to learn by rote not only lost their usefulness: they became objects of contempt. The more common use of the phrase ‘old wives’ tales’ to refer to the lore of unlearned women conveys a similar sense of stigma. In this essay, I discuss various texts, finally focussing on Peele’s Old Wives Tale, to explore the implications of this shared repertoire within the wider context of a culture whose antagonism to illiterate old women participated in ideologies deeply formative to early moderns and their literatures.
Revitalising and Reframing a 'Christian' Continent
Peter Jan Margry
In the economic and political unification process of Europe, the idea of the creation of a pan-European identity was put high on the political agenda. With the failure of this effort, the emphasis shifted to the apparently less fraught concept of 'shared cultural heritage'. This article analyses how the politically guided rediscovery of Europe's past has contributed to the creation of a 'Religion of Heritage', not only by raising up a political altar for cultural heritage, but also through the revitalisation, instrumentalisation and transformation of the Christian heritage, in order to try to memorialise and affirm a collective European identity based on its Christian past. In the context of this process, the network of European pilgrims' ways appears to have been an especially successful performative form of heritage creation, which has both dynamised Christian roots as a relevant trans-European form of civil religion that has taken shape, capitalising on the new religious and spiritual demands created by secularisation, and responded to the demand for shared - and Christian inspired - European values and meanings in times of uncertainty and crisis.