Public Evening Lecture

Nir Cohen: URBAN STUDIES ANDTHE ETHICS OF CARE. Lessons from Southern Tel Aviv

5 December 2018 at 6pm, Seminar room Argentinierstraße, TU Wien

Enmity is on the rise in Israeli cities. Hostile, hate-filled exchanges are visible between distinct socio-political groups across the country. Skirmishes between orthodox and seculars over the closure of businesses on the Sabbath (the Jewish day of rest), leftists and rightists over the deportation of African migrants, and lower and middle classes over the magnitude of urban renewal projects dot its contemporary urban landscape. Scholars have often employed a justice-oriented framework to account for these clashes. Specifically, they have been explaining their unfolding against the backdrop of dwindling rights for socio-physical goods and services – or the threat thereof – perceived by either group, or both.

The lecture sets to challenge the rigorous centering on the satisfaction of material rights as a leading approach for explaining urban antagonism in Israel. Employing an ethics of care paradigm, it suggests instead that animosity is frequently induced and sustained by the long-entrenched perception of marginalized groups that (the more) powerful segments are unwilling (or unable) to take their perspective. Urban resentment is further exacerbated when the perceived misidentification of dominant groups is interpreted within an ‘elitist’ discourse of allegedly cosmopolitan values, like environmentalism or human rights.

Using insights from case studies in the Tel Aviv metro area, this talk explores the micro-politics of care(ing) as it unfolds in local urbans scenes. Drawing on qualitative methods, including semi-structured interviews and content analysis, it examines the ways in which members of different residential groups narrate their (often unrealized) quest to be listened to, empathized with and, ultimately, cared for by other distinct groups. It is this purported ‘empathy deficit’, it is argued, that often generates and sustains animosity between urban groups divided along class, ethnic and religious lines.