Dr. Michal Kravel-Tovi

Dr. Michal Kravel-Tovi

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Prof. Esther Hertzog
Last update: 28-Sep-2010

Research interests

My work covers a range of topics and fields of study that center on the interconnection of collective crisis, knowledge and subjectivity. Drawing on a number of analytic frameworks, I examine the complex ways in which various groups and institutions within the contemporary Jewish world experience, articulate, and manage collective crises (whether religious, national, or demographic). In particular, I am interested in exploring how institutional interventions in collective crises simultaneously shape and are shaped by systems of knowledge; that is, how culturally authorized modalities of knowledge (such as the visual, the bureaucratic and the statistical) are implicated in the framing and handling of an event as a crisis. Furthermore, I am interested in how institutional interventions in collective crises partake in the constitution of subjectivity in its various dimensions (such as life-choices, religious experience, and performance in both ritual and everyday settings). These academic interests link my MA thesis on Chabad messianism, my doctoral dissertation on Jewish conversion in Israel, and my postdoctoral project on Jewish biopolitics within the organized American Jewish community.

Doctoral dissertation

My doctoral dissertation is an ethnographic study on the micro-politics of conversion (giur) in Israel. In particular, I show how, in response to the non-Jewish immigration from the former Soviet Union, the Israeli State has transformed conversion into a bureaucratic vehicle of its Zionist bio-political logic, thereby positioning the converting subject as an object of population policy. Given this transformation, I examine the everyday interface between state agents and Jewish converts, particularly the array of practices directed at the alteration of the convert's subjectivity in both religious and national terms. Based on multi-sited fieldwork (2004-2007) at various junctures where converts interact with state agents (conversion schools, rabbinical courts and ritual baths), as well as interviews and analyses of textual sources, I theorize this state-subject interface through the lens of an 'exchange of identities.' This concept is intended to capture the processes of reciprocal constitution and recognition engendered by the state-run conversion field

Current project

In my 'Jewish biopolitics and continuity discourse among the organized American Jewry' project, I extend my interest in biopolitics and subjectivity to the study of the pro-Jewish, anxiety-laden population policy of the organized American Jewish community. Within the context of this work, my empirical point of departure for studying the nexus of crisis, knowledge, and subjectivity is an array of demographic trends taking place among American Jewry

Teaching interests

My teaching interests include: the Anthropology of the state; Bureaucracy; Religious conversion; Dramaturgy and passing; the Politics of belonging; Messianism; the Anthropology of time; the Anthropology of policy; Religion and religiosity; Material Culture; the Politics of numbers; Jewish passages of identity; Jewish crises; Anthropological theories; Ethnography.