October 9, 2007 – Adi Ophir: “Space, Time, and Violence in the Palestinian Occupied Territories”

Monday, October 9 / 4PM / Oakes Mural Room

Adi Ophir is Associate Professor at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University, and is research fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and the Shalom Hartman Institute for Jewish Studies. An activist and a scholar, his research centers on modern and contemporary continental philosophy in the domains of ethics, political philosophy, and critical theory. His books include Working for the Present (Avodat Hahove, Hakkibutz Hameuchad 2001) and, with Ariella Azoulay, Terrible Days (Yamim Raim, Resling 2002). In 2005, Zone Books of MIT Press published Ophir’s The Order of Evils, an English translation of a Hebrew original published in 2000. This erudite, rich, and experimentally structured philosophical text asks fundamental questions about moral judgment in the wake of Heideggerian and poststructualist philosophy. Shaped by reflections on the Holocaust and on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, Adi Ophir offers new perspectives on evil, emphasizing its existential and political character, and suggests new ground for moral being in the present age. About his current work, he writes:

I am currently engaged in research on “states of disaster”. The contemporary state is the main institution capable of and responsible for protecting the people it governs against disasters – natural and man-made alike. At the same time, the state is capable of creating conditions and implementing policies that turn out to be catastrophic for its own subjects as well as for the subjects of other states. Today, “the providential state” and “the catastrophic state” seem as but two aspects of what Carl Schmitt called “the total state” and its apparatuses. In my research I am trying to reconstruct the genealogy, the theological and metaphysical presuppositions, and the modus operandi of each of these two “state formations,” questioning the common wisdom that sees them as two sides of a single dialectical process in which progress and destruction are inevitably linked. This research is inspired by a long term interest in and opposition to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, which lately, in response to the outbreak of the second Intifada, has turned catastrophic for the Palestinian non-citizens of Israel. My talk will be based on a joint work with Ariella Azoulay in which we study the modus operandi of the Israeli occupying power.