Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Universities operate within internal contradictions: on the one hand, institutions meant to acquire knowledge, to learn how to challenge existing knowledge, to think critically, to ask questions and experiment with the physical and social reality. On the other, they are highly conservative and hierarchical institutions that fiercely maintain established ways of participation and evaluation.
Located at a walled campus within a conflicted, walled city, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem faces geographic and national borders, as well as ethnic, religious and class related boundaries. Similar to other locations, these walls are marked and defined by layers of ongoing and intersecting conflicts, erected to separate individuals and groups and maintain and reproduce structures of power that shape and nurture conflicts.
The purpose of this paper is to look at the Hebrew University as a particular example of universities as sites of conflict and activism, struggle and collaboration. To do so I will look at two educational projects operating within the university. In the first project, Jewish Israeli student volunteer to teach basic Hebrew to Palestinian women from the near-by village of Issawiya in order to improve their ability to negotiate their everyday reality. The second project introduces first generation to higher education students, mostly from peripheral social location, to key academic concepts and practices in order to improve their ability to survive and excel within the walls of the ivory tower. Both projects face the separation walls erected to maintain social and national conflicts and turn them to sites of collaboration.