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Talking through difference: everyday ethics across borders in an Israeli-Palestinian community

Tuv, Liat (2018) Talking through difference: everyday ethics across borders in an Israeli-Palestinian community. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.loml6uunljqa


At the centre of one of the most well-known and seemingly intractable societal conflicts in modern history, a movement of Jewish and Palestinian Israelis has tried over the decades to work towards equality, a shared society, and positive inter-group relationships. Within this movement is the community of Wahat al-Salam - Neve Shalom (‘Oasis of Peace’ in Arabic and Hebrew), where 30 Jewish families and 30 Palestinian families have chosen to live together and run educational outreach projects to share their theories about peace and equality with others in Israel-Palestine. Key to this moral endeavour is dialogue, which really means being able to talk through difference; villagers believe in talking with each other despite the political and social barriers that may stand in their way, and making those very socio-political differences into objects of discussion. This thesis, based on 17-months fieldwork in Wahat al-Salam - Neve Shalom, explores three puzzles with implications for the mission of the community as well as anthropological theory. First, what kind of language ideologies underlie the idea of talking as a tool for peace? Second, what concept of difference do community members have, given the potentially negative implications of either emphasizing or downplaying difference? Third, what motivates people in social movements to live their ethical ideals in the everyday? Given the highly politicised context in which the villagers live, and the moral objectives they live by, even seemingly banal linguistic choices can affect relationships. Friendships across difference can be formed, strengthened, or fall apart as the result of verbal and non-verbal interactions — energising those involved when they go well and producing feelings of discomfort or embarrassment when they do not. In sum, this thesis suggests that everyday ethical approaches to difference draw on a mixture of political awareness and sensitivity, explicit theories about the way to engage with others, and the internal dynamics of interactions. These internal dynamics bring up moments of ambiguity that require reflection but also provide the potential for people to challenge their differences and how best to deal with them.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Liat Tuv
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Pelkmans, Mathijs and Astuti, Rita

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