Shai Gortler

Fellow: Postdoctoral

I am an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) at the University of the Western Cape. I am a political theorist and hold a PhD in Political Science from the University of Minnesota, where I was an ICGC-Mellon Scholar, as well as an MA (summa cum laude) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a BA (summa cum laude) from Ben-Gurion University. My research interests lie in the intersection of political theory, theories of subjectivity, and the philosophy of punishment. My book project, Carceral Subjectivity and the Exercise of Freedom in Israel-Palestine, looks at modalities of subject formation at work in the Israeli incarceration of Palestinian political prisoners. Documents held in Israeli, Palestinian, Swiss, American, and French archives as well as interviews with former Israeli Prison Service Commissioners, former Ministers of Police, and Palestinian former prisoners reveal how Israeli prisons enhanced their techniques of subject formation. From the capture of the first Palestinian self-identified political prisoner in 1965 to 2019, these techniques included not only practices usually associated with prisons such as isolation, limitation, and the use of violence but also attempts to influence behavior, identity, and sense of self. Drawing from a Foucauldian methodological refusal to separate philosophical debates from historically-specific contexts, the project traces how prison authorities and prisoners struggled to rework subjectivity. The implications for political theory are the stress on action and inclusion as means of subjectification and how, even in dark times, people can nevertheless advance practices of freedom.

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The CHR in the time of a global pandemic

In line with protocols introduced by government towards the prevention and containment of the COVID-19 virus, the CHR suspended its public events, seminars, and general fellowship program until further notice.  We wish CHR fellows, students, artists, colleagues and friends, as well as our partners and funders in South Africa and across the world much strength and compassion in these difficult times.


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