Lafer Center Doctoral Fellows

Ayisha Agbariaayesha

Dissertation title: Tie management and social networks during religious identity re-formation among young Muslim women 

Supervisor: Prof. Nicholas John 

Abstract: My PhD. research focuses on the phenomenon of identity re-formation in the digital age, by which I refer to the process of change in an aspect of one's identity by adopting a different ideology and/or behavior. Specifically, the research will explore the role of online and embodied social ties and their management as an aspect of religious identity re-formation. Building, breaking, and restructuring social ties are a crucial part of identity formation and re-formation. The research will examine religious identity re-formation among Muslim women in Israel and the technological and social aspects of the process that these women experience during this change. This research will explore the ways Muslim women in Israel manage social ties in order to form a religious identity and present a new self within their complex reality.

The research will allow us to better understand the place of social media in identity development, particularly religious identity. Social media offer new ways of both receiving and using information about religion which were not as widely available in the past, and they have shaped a new kind of social tie which can be built or broken with relative ease.  Moreover, studying a non-western population enrich the field of social media studies as it presents habits and dilemmas of a group which is not usually included as mainstream population. By studying Muslim Arab women we don’t seek only to find their uniqueness as social media users, but to shed a light at differences of media use that could be taken for granted and behaviors that are assumed to be global.



Ambreen Ben-Shmuel


Dissertation Title: Intersectional Perspectives on Transboundary Cooperation in Conflict Contexts: The Case of Environmental Peacebuilding in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan

Supervisor: Prof. Michal Frenkel

Abstract: Building on research that considers intersectional inclusion in both peace and environmental initiatives as critical to initiatives’ equitable and effective implementation, Ambreen’s MA and PhD research have focused on slightly different fields.

In her MA research, which she is currently working on publishing, she explored mixed-gender dialogue groups.  Relying on observations of group dynamics in a single, established organization and interviews with actors involved, she found that Palestinian women were the most marginalized in their participation, culture was used as a source of power in the way differences were conceptualized, and these aspects were embedded in gendered and gendering organizational practices that reproduce asymmetric gender-national power relations. These findings contribute to the theorization of the matrix of domination and how it is translated into peace organizing in both interactional and organizational practices, affecting possibilities of participation in dialogue groups and peacebuilding.


In her PhD research, she is exploring how cross-border environmental cooperation is conducted, drawing on various intersectional perspectives that emerge as most salient in the field, including, but not limited to, nationality, gender, and sociological generation.  This research explores social, organizational, and political factors that influence intersectional participation. It also explores how organizational goals, practices, and processes related to the environment and peace influence various intersectional groups, and the way these groups participate, cooperate, and create environmental partnerships, reciprocally shaping the organization. This study seeks to offer a deeper understanding of intersectionality in organizations, exploring the ways environmental goals in organizations influence intersectional subgroups in purposeful and unintended ways.



Lior Beserman Navon


Dissertation Title: Here She Comes! Epistemology of Knowledge, Ignorance and the Case of Female Ejaculation

Supervisors: Dr. Gili Hammer and Dr. Otniel Dror

Abstract: My PhD thesis focuses on the connection between different epistemologies and knowledge systems, mainly embodied knowledge and propositional medical knowledge, and their connection to gender and to the concept of ignorance- the tangible absence or erasure of knowledge. I do so by focusing on the topic of female ejaculation, a relatively understudied and unexplored feminine physiological phenomenon which is generally described as an expulsion of fluid from female genitalia during sexual activity. Focusing on this abjected, unspoken and unexplored phenomenon enables to rethink the correlation between sexuality, bodily subjective knowledge, medical knowledge that aims for objectivity, and what is left unexplored and unknown.  In order to research this topic and to achieve a holistic view of the phenomenon, the knowledge concerning it, and its connection to the concept of ignorance, I embrace a multimodal approach that includes different data sources and different methodologies such as: narrative analysis of medical literature concerning the phenomenon, critical discourse analysis of a twitter backlash from 2019, called #notpee, fieldwork in workshops where the phenomenon is taught and learned by women and couples, and interviews with woman how have experienced FE. The variety of methodologies and data sources enables me to obtain a more holistic perspective regarding the phenomenon, and to argue that ignorance and knowledge should not be regarded as dichotomic, but rather as complementary, entwined parts that never cease to influence one another and are influenced by gender stereotypes and power relations.

Hadas Gur-Ze'evHadas

Dissertation Title: Gender discourse on digital participatory platforms

Supervisor: Prof. Neta Kligler-Vilenchik

Abstract: Over the recent years, gender discourse is becoming increasingly visible on social platforms. This research focuses on the evident clash between two contrasting views—popular feminism and networked misogyny—and the way they are used by participants in non-political or gender discussions of popular content. The research examines gender discourse on a number of participatory platforms as a space that allows for discussion and negotiation of perceptions, attitudes, and meanings. It aims to examine how popular content is used as a resource for gender discussion, and more specifically—how broad ideological views are reflected in the gender discourse where participants position themselves at the two opposing poles.



Ya'ara Keydar

Dissertation Title: Salomé: Fashioning a Femme Fataleיערה קידר

Supervisor: Dr. Carola Hilfrich

Abstract: The biblical story of Salomé has spellbound many Western artists. The few short verses of the New Testament Gospel of Mark devoted to Salomé present her as an impressionable young woman. Manipulated by a vindictive mother, she seduced Herod in return for the head of John the Baptist.[1] She can be seen throughout the centuries, at center stage not only in the fine arts but also in literature, theater, opera, film and more. The research I conducted for my master’s thesis in Costume Studies at NYU (2016) led me to one of her most renowned depictions, the one by Henri Regnault (1870, figure 2). Digging deeper and finding the hundreds of Salomé depictions from at least the Middle Ages up to this scandalous painting, felt like falling down a rabbit hole. To analyze this volume of works, I organized all the pieces on large boards, in chronological order. A pattern emerged: in each and every work of art until the 19th century, the artist dressed the figure of Salomé in the period’s most fashionable garments; she thus is very much the emblem of western fashion, a fashion icon. Our Salomé tour takes a surprising and dramatic twist during the late 19th century: from a fair-skinned, almost cherubic ingenue (figure 2), she has transformed into a sensual, seductive, and oriental woman - a femme fatale.

Surprisingly, given the ubiquity of fashion and fashionable signifiers to the depiction of Salomé, I found a scholarly lacuna in treating that very subject. Thousands of essays and books on Salomé, spanning art history, literature, Jewish and cultural studies to name only a few disciplines,[2] analyze every conceivable angle of this protagonist, from her gender to her religion – except her dress. If the claim I formulate in the introduction has merit – that the figure of Salomé has been historically constituted through fashion – what could explain this academic oversight?

My goal is to balance the different strengths of the two parts that make up ‘Fashion history’, as a research lens. On the one hand, fashion is a broad reflection of culture and society – a seismograph that detects, depicts and predicts social flux. But the deeper meanings of its constant changes can only be understood from a distance of time – ‘history.’[3] My proposed research aspires to comprise two distinct but interwoven fields of inquiry: historically, I will examine Salomé's myriad representations through their fashionable aspects; and in the area of cultural studies, to offer an answer to the above-mentioned oversight, stemming from my overall interest in fashion studies.

The dissertation aims to follow Salomé's fashionable transformations, in hope to uncover the forces behind the socio-historical shifts of the different times. Can her figure adorned with and denuded of shifting meanings inform us of the time and climate in which each iteration of Salomé was conceived and reinvented? To answer this question, my research intends to follow historical developments alongside Salomé’s cultural evolution, as depicted in arts and media: from ingenue to femme fatale in paintings; from two-dimensional to three-dimensional representations in stage and film productions, and from human to object-commodity in advertising.


Lior Krauz Cazelleslior

Dissertation Title: Representation of Sisterhood in Israeli and Palestinian Cinema (1980–2020)

Supervisor: Prof. Raya Morag

Abstract: At the heart of the proposed research is the concept of sisterhood (political solidarity between women) as represented in Israeli and Palestinian cinema for the past 40 years. Examining the representations of sisterhood in the cinematic space will allow the status of women in both societies, Israeli and Palestinian, to be analyzed by raising a new discussion of the relevant moral, social and political questions, as the discussion of sisterhood (rather than brotherhood) will provide a subversive perspective on the hegemonic-militaristic discourse in Israeli society. The sisterhood films (made by both male and female directors) aim to break it up and propose an alternative. Cinema as a medium that possesses unique aesthetic means, can reposition and redirect the gaze at women, as well as refocuses the gaze on women's relationships, including the bound tensions in this relationship due to the inherent disparity in asymmetrical conflict between the gender and class aspects and the ethnic one, while seek to change the ways women look and see each other.


tzofiyaTzofiya Malev

Dissertation Title: The Dialectic of Matter and Spirit: A Case Study of Religious Male Dancers

Supervisor: Prof. Tamar El Or

Abstract:  This research will deal with the complex relations between matter and spirit and body and soul in the world of dancing. In this research I will examine how a spiritual experience is constructed through the dancing body, which is the substance of dancing (Kohavi, 2007). Various contrasts arise in the action of dancing. The research literature engages with two main pairs: matter and spirit  and body and soul. Often no clear distinction is made between these pairs and one member of a pair can appear in combination with the member of another pair. Thus, for example, spirit and soul are discussed as if they are interchangeable concepts (e.g., Kohavi, 2007). As I go about clarifying these concepts, I will examine in this work the place of the spirit in the transition from matter to spirit and what uniquely characterizes the corporeal matter in this transformation. Thus, I will expose aspects relating to how man experiences himself and his world, as well as his ability to influence these experiences and processes that extend beyond himself. 

The research will be based on broad ethnographic work with the Kaet Dance Ensemble, the All My Bones Shall Say dance school, and the various activities produced by the Between Heaven and Earth association. In the past two years I have conducted observations at the ensemble’s rehearsals and at the semi-professional dance group, Mahia. I also observed various performances by the ensemble and various events put on by the Between Heaven and Earth association. In addition, the research will be based on interviews with the professional dancers of the ensemble, past and present, with dancers from the semi-professional group Mahia, as well as interviews with the choreographer Ronen Itzhaki and other professionals that accompany the ensemble’s activities. Furthermore, I will discuss artifacts that appear in the field such as costumes, posters, and so on. The research will also examine the religious texts that form the theological basis by which and for which the men dance; they are key to understanding the field, its problematics, and its innovations.



1Shlomit Ortasse

Dissertation Title: Prospective view of retirement – gender& class sensitive perspective

Supervisor: Prof. Michal Frenkel


My research focuses on gender differences regarding prospective views of retirement life of senior managers during the later stages of their career. My hypothesis is that the differences in ways in which women and men experience life during their career, affect considerably their attitudes and expectations about their life as retirees regarding family, leisure, and post-retirement work. It is a qualitative research, applying phenomenological-interpretive methods. The first stage, partially accomplished, consists of in-depth interviews of 12 women and 12 men, all senior managers during the last decade before their retirement. Although career is found to be equally significant to both women and men interviewees, I found that their gender-based different experiences, frame at least three important dissimilarities in their expectations of life following retirement: First, with regard to dedication to family, men perceive their retirement as consists of "compensating" their families for their inability to adequately dedicate themselves to them during their careers, whereas women perceive their careers as combined with full engagement with their families, and thus do not expect a major break following their retirement. Second, whereas men perceive their professional identity as crucial to their life even following retirement, women perceive their identity as multifaceted, with professional identity playing out as one, indeed major, component thereof. Third, whereas men define meaning of their life in terms of handing over their knowledge and insights to the next generations, women construe meaning of life as composed of various tasks and activities, with transfer of knowledge being merely one of them. In sum, whereas men perceive their lifespan as an axis that stretches between the poles of work and family, women conceive life as hybrid and multitasked all along, before- and after retirement.

The second stage of my research, yet to be executed, comprises of in-depth interviews of 12 women and 12 man of middle-ranking positions, preferably from the same organizations of the previous interviewees or similar organizations, with the aim of examining whether and how gender differences at work and beyond affect their attitudes and expectations of post retirement life.

These distinctions between women and men can assist both employers and employees in reformulating processes of preparations for retirement. As life span increases, and financial and psychological anxieties about retirement mount, there is a vital need for outlining life following retirement and improving preparations towards it. 





veredVered Porzycki

Dissertation Title: The Representation of Women in Parliaments: Gendered Language, Gendered Society

Supervisors: Prof Shaul Shenhav, Dr. Odelia Oshri

Abstract: To what extent, and in what ways, does the representation of women in parliamentary discourse contribute to and perpetuate the inequality between men and women? Despite the rich scholarly work on political representation of women, not much attention has been given to how women are represented in political discourse. Given that discourse serves as a mirror to society itself, discourse analysis holds the potential to broaden our understanding of society itself. This research will examine three distinct sub-categories of discourse. Discourse on women examines the manner in which legislators, of any gender, construct and represent women. Discourse with women studies wether female legislators are treated differently than their male counterparts in parliamentary discourse. Discourse by women will shed light on how female legislators choose to represent themselves in parliamentary maiden speeches. Taken together, these three angles provide a multidimensional picture of the representation of women through discourse.  

The first paper in this project will focus on the portrayal of women in the discourse of right-wing populist parties in the European Parliament. In particular, this paper studies how women are being represented in the discourse of right-wing populist right parties, and what are the issues and political agendas associated with them, compared to left-wing and right-wing mainstream parties. The second paper will analyse the “built-in” power struggle and unique dynamic between men and women in parliament, by examining whether female and male legislators receive different types of interjections. The third paper will comparatively analyse how female and male legislators choose to present themselves in maiden speeches in various countries. Combined, the three papers will reveal how these three aspects are manifested in discourse and how parliamentary discourse reflects the inequality between men and women in society.



sigalSigal Sapir


Dissertation Title: Doing Gender in Their Own Space: Gender Regime and Spatial Aesthetics in Co-Working Spaces for Women

Supervisors: Prof. Michal Frenkel and Prof. Varda Wasserman

Abstract: The study examines a phenomenon, that has developed in the last decade, of co-working spaces for women. Usually, co-working spaces are places where small startups, telecommuters and freelancers rent flexible office space on a month-to-month basis. These spaces rely on aesthetics, ideology and style in order to appeal to potential members, while offering not only a place to work but also a sense of community. While many of the co-working spaces are mostly populated by men, some of them are designed primarily for women. These places are founded and designed by women for professional women, mainly self-employed, entrepreneurs or owners of small businesses, aiming to create an environment that is female-oriented. Thus, the community created in these spaces is characterized by a female majority (there are male members, but they are a minority), the design and materiality of the space is meant to suit women's tastes and needs, and most of the activities that take place in these spaces are focused on promoting the success of women in business and dealing with the obstacles that the entrepreneurial world poses for them. In fact, these co-working spaces for women are based on gender segregation and their main message is feminist. The women who initiated them are interested in promoting gender-based social change, and women who work there choose to do so because they prefer such a space as opposed to a gender mixed one which is usually male-dominant. They simply prefer to work in their own space.

The study seeks to examine the role of the female-separated space in the gender making process, from a critical point of view. That is, to examine how the roles, power relationships, and identities of women and men are (re)constructed and shaped through the interaction between participants in such a space. This goal will be examined through two key research questions. The first is whether and how a local gender regime develops in a space characterized by female dominance and what are its characteristics? The second question is what are the aesthetic and material characteristics of a “feminine” work space and what are the perceptions, practices and emotional experiences of women in a space specially designed for them?

To examine these questions, the study will include three co-working spaces for women located in different cities, different countries and even different continents: Tel Aviv, London and New York. The shared insights that arise from the data collected in these three arenas will make it possible to formulate appropriate generalizations for the phenomenon of a female co-working space. Qualitative research methodology will be used in the research. The data collection will be done through participant observations, semi-constructed interviews and text analysis.  Participant observations in each of the spaces will allow to examine the use of the space, the movement in it, the social processes that take place in it and the interaction between the participants. Interviews with the entrepreneurs of these places will help to establish the ideologies behind the idea and the resistance to it. Interviews with those who designed the space might shed a light on the aesthetic and material characteristics of a feminine space and what were the considerations behind the various aesthetic choices. Finally, interviews with the women working in the spaces will enable me to learn about their experiences, perceptions and feelings. In addition, analysis of journalistic texts will also be used, as well as information gathered from social networks and websites to get a more general and richer picture of these spaces beyond the timeline of the study and beyond the three places being examined.

This study will show how gender is done in a feminine space and therefore may present a critical way to understand how gender is formed in the workspace and what is the role of space characteristics in gender creation in an organization.