Future Research Groups


2022-2025: Remapping Elites in Late Antiquity: Jews, Christians, and Pagans

The proposed project addresses a subject of central importance in human societies from antiquity until today: the competition of elites which tend to seek domination over others and, if successful, present their former competitors as marginal and suppress their values. The project is based on new sources, which throw light on the enormously complex processes of emerging elites in Late Antiquity, especially in the Roman Empire in the West and the Sassanian Empire in the East. Rather than perpetuating the canonical self-images of the dominant elites, such as the rabbis, the project will use newly discovered literary, documentary, and archaeological source to remap the variety of ancient elites and offer a historically more accurate picture of the hybridity of cultures, religions, and societies at large. The group’s composition promises groundbreaking interdisciplinary work, based on complementary competences in adjacent fields. The synergy between the four researchers will create an integrative perspective, which considers different, yet related geographical areas in Late Antiquity and uses various disciplinary approaches. The project will provide an almost unique opportunity for comparisons between West and East, promising cross-fertilization especially in the areas of urbanity, cultural hybridity, and “lived religion”.

The topic of the research group is of wider academic and even of public interest. Besides the weekly-meetings and the international conference at the end of the project, the group will thus also cooperate with the Scholion group “The Past in the Past”, the Center for Mediterranean Studies at Haifa University and two research groups abroad, one at the university of Tübingen (Germany), the other at UCSD (USA). The group will also reach out to public institutions and initiate broader discussions at the National Library, the Van Leer Institute, and the Yad Ben Zvi Institute.


Research Team:

Dr. Avner Ecker, Department of Archaeology, Bar Ilan University

Dr. Avigal Manekin-Bamberger, Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry

Prof. Maren R. Niehoff, Department of Jewish Thought

Dr. Yakir Paz, Departments of Talmud and Classics


"Remapping Elites in Late Antiquity" Full Research Proposal



2023-2026: Passivities: Modes of Feeling, Modes of Knowing

The opposition of passion and action pervades Western epistemological self-understanding. It is arranged in metaphors that contrast the mind as a mirror, passively reflecting external reality, to the mind as a searching lamp, projecting its own light on its surroundings. It is embedded in the philosophical polemic between a materialist notion of human existence, as a passive reaction to external stimuli, and the idealist celebration of the human creative capabilities in fashioning their own environment. The dichotomy thus constitutes the dynamic interface between human mental processes and the external world providing the foundational framework for any cognitive act. Critically assessing this interface and the subtle moments of passivities it involves, our interdisciplinary project suggests tackling it from two angles, one historical, focusing on early modern Europe as a transitional phase; and the other, critical and philosophical, examining the notion of passivity from a phenomenological point of view.

Our collaborative project takes its cue from Edmund Husserl's intuition that a passive order of experience undergirds all phenomenological processes. This moment represents an epochal shift in the history of ideas, an Archimedean point where passivity ceases to be perceived as a lack of initiative or a failure of the individual will. The aim of our research is to trace the genealogy of this founding moment, to chronicle the way it problematised the traditional hierarchical distribution of the active/passive binary opposition, and to explore its implications in the fields of science, art and aesthetics for the formation of modernity.
Challenging long-standing assumptions about models of moral agency and epistemological mastery, our research will invite a re-examination of passivity not only in the realms of aesthetics and affect theory but also in the political sphere. The project will approach the concept of passivity in a comparative and multidisciplinary way, combining a history of emotions with a material history of science, and putting these in dialogue with the discourses of art and literature, thus suggesting a novel point of departure for a synthetic examination of the historiography of culture.


Research Team:

Prof. Ruben Borg, English Department

Prof. Raz Chen-Morris, Department of History 

Dr. Lola Kantor-Kazovsky, Department of Art History

Dr. Gur Zak, Department of General and Comparative Literature


"Passivities: Modes of Feeling, Modes of Knowing" Full Research Proposal