Various shapes of whiteness A new look at racism and its institutional operation in Israeli academia
Israeli academia is primarily characterized by a white Jewish and Ashkenazi (Jews of European descent) patriarchal hegemony and is dominated by European culture. While the gender composition of Israeli academia has improved in recent years, non-Jewish groups (principally Palestinians) and non-Ashkenazi Jewish groups (such as Mizrahim Jews, of North African and Middle Eastern origin) remain transparent minorities. Israeli academia has begun to open up to hitherto excluded ethnic and religious minority groups, but exclusionary practices and systems of separation and segregation continue to operate towards these groups in hidden oppressive ways.
With respect to the broader academic discourse, the exclusion of minority groups in higher education institutions in Israel manifests in terms of discrimination, gaps, and lack of representation. Although this discourse does identify institutional practices that generate inequality, it ignores what is described elsewhere in terms of racialization and/or racism; this discourse is thus unable to expose the power structures (both hidden and obvious) and justification regimes that support these organizational conducts.
This issue seeks to take a new look at the practices that reproduce racial injustice and discrimination in Israeli academic space by juxtaposing critical race theory, critical whiteness theory, and the settler colonial paradigm.
Critical race theory, which developed in the United States, posits that race and color are significant—albeit constructed—concepts, and that processes of racialization and racism occur across a variety of sociological and cultural fields. Class, ethnicity, sex, and gender groupings are tagged “black” or “white” by the hegemony; however, the “black” groups are considered as inferior in the organizational setting. Critical whiteness theory complements race theory by providing the theoretical concepts that make it possible to observe and examine the social and institutional challenges created by the blindness of white privilege (Delgado & Stefacic, 2013).
In Israel, white privilege remains grounded in a settler colonial reality that has been eradicated in most other parts of the world. Settler colonialism is a project producing a racialized and gendered national identity, normalizing the sovereignty of male whiteness through mechanisms directed toward devaluing the natives (Veracini, 2010). This objective is achieved through practices of biopolitics aimed at the regulation and administration of the population, as individuals and as collectives. These include practices of correction, exclusion, normalization, disciplining, selection, and elimination (Lemke, 2011).
The most prevalent social perception views liberal perspective and policy as a guarantee of cultural progress and the ultimate fulfillment of values such as equality and freedom. In contrast to this, critical race theory, critical whiteness theory, and the settler colonial paradigm emphasize the ways in which liberal governments maintain and perpetuate the privileges accorded to certain groups, and how they disseminate direct types of camouflaged violence, power relations and exclusionary mechanisms towards other groups. According to their approach, policies of blindness to native identity or color, which ostensibly promote neutral and universal equality, should in theory abolish both obvious and symbolic exclusion and racism. But, even when overt racial practices are eliminated, hidden (and more widespread) racist practices are not eradicated—safeguarding the power and privilege of those defined as colonial whites (Crenshaw, 1988; Delgado & Stefancic, 1997; Siegel, 2001)
In recent years, institutions of higher learning have promoted diversity programs, part of the adoption of a neoliberal mindset and policies. Thus, it might be expected that these institutions would challenge the exclusion of minorities on the basis of class, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. However, in practice, the neoliberal diversity discourse makes it possible to disregard complex types of racist and colonial power relations, and obscures exclusionary practices that continue to exist (Abu-Rabia-Queder, 2019). The current issue seeks to thrust these issues to the surface.
Higher education institutions in Israel constitute a unique instance and space, where the “coloniality of knowledge” is controlled by a colonial-racial matrix of power (Quijano, 2007). Analysis of the complex power relations within its confines will shed light on the ways in which political structures and policies perpetuate new structures of racial domination, blindness, and superiority in the academic arena.
For this issue, we invite submissions presenting historical and contemporary perspectives on policies and practices of racialization, whiteness, racism, and colonialism—such as segregation, tagging, exclusion, normalized power relations (concealed and open)—in Israeli academia, and analysis of the mechanisms that perpetuate the privileges of white and colonial groups holding power. We invite the submission of articles that investigate these issues through the categories of race, whiteness, colonialism, gender, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, disability, and the intersections between them.
Issues to be examined and questions posed:
- How can racialization and whiteness discourse describe power relations in academia?
- How are racist discourse and white privilege manifested in the organizational space: for example, in academic departments, in curricula, on bulletin boards, in campus activities, in the choice of library books, on campus, and in general?
- What types of intersectionality can be identified on academic campuses in Israel, and how are these mechanisms of oppression expressed?
- How does racism feed into a culture of silencing in courses’ syllabi and teaching, and other campus activities?
- How does accessibility discourse maintain racialization and white privilege?
- How do whiteness and racism intersect with colonialism and occupation in knowledge production, diversity policy, and selection processes?
- How does critical race theory assist us in identifying and locating groups who experience intersecting forms of oppression but remain transparent in the academic space?
- How do whiteness and racialization intersect with decolonialization in Israeli academia?
- How practices of settler colonialism such as “elimination,” sovereignty, discipline and dehumanization are manifested in higher education institutions in Israel?
Abstracts/Proposal (300-400 words) examining Israeli academia through the theoretical prism that we have presented and responding to one of the above issues or to other relevant issues with a 50-word biography due: September 30th 2021
Acceptances of abstracts made by: October 15th 2021
Accepted and completed papers (70000-8000 words); March 15th, 2022.
Please send inquiries and abstracts to editors at: firstname.lastname@example.org