DEC 9, 6 PM
A talk by Rohit Goel

In this talk, Rohit Goel shows how an either/or approach to ideas and institutions, evident in the debates on Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, has plagued scholarship on Jewish nationalism and Israeli state formation more generally. In contrast to this approach, he argues that ideas and institutions worked dialectically to make the Israeli nation-state in Palestine thinkable and thus practicable. Goel first engages abiding scholarly debates on Jewish nationalism, which hold fast to a rigid divide between ideational and materialist explanations of Israeli state formation. He then uses the prevailing academic literature on nations and nationalisms to develop a dialectical method for studying the Israeli case, the subject of the final part of the talk. There, he shows show how from the 1890’s to 1948, contentious debate on the questions of whether the modern Jewish nation exists, what that existence entails and where it should exist, and finally how it ought to organize politically, worked dialectically with institutional practices to form the Israeli nation-state. To conclude, he emphasizes how liberal ideological contention, rather than oft-assumed coherence, has functioned to sustain Jewish nationalism and shore up Israeli state formation in Palestine over time. As a result, only a radical, anti-liberal critique of Israeli nationalism will work to solve the ‘question of Palestine’.

Rohit Goel is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. His dissertation, War and Peace in Lebanon, shows how civil violence and multicultural tolerance have sustained one another over time in Lebanon, a dialectical relation that has shored up the Lebanese nation-state. He received an MA in Political Science from the University of Chicago in 2006 and, as Harvard University’s Paul Williams Fellow to Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge, an MPhil in Social and Political Relations in 2003. He graduated with a BA in Social Studies from Harvard College in 2002.