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Free Content Emotionalising national security, depoliticising the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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This study explores the growing presence of emotional terminology within Israeli popular discourses on national security, as reflected in the daily talk of Israelis living on the border with the Gaza Strip. It is based on ethnography conducted in 2016–18 as part of a multi-site, multidisciplinary study on articulations of security in frontier communities. Findings reveal that the grassroots discourse of national security is saturated with emotional language, and that this, in turn, is interlaced with relationships terminology. Residents report high levels of insecurity (fear, trauma, and constant disquiet), alongside pride in their families’ and communities’ strong care and solidarity, which they perceive as a great source of resilience. Parenthetically, the state and the military, too, are made concrete through relational emotions. We argue that the language of emotional-relationality frames national security and resilience as mental dispositions, and that this subsequently renders the robust power apparatuses that maintain their semi-transparency.

The analysis dwells on the political implications of the phenomenon. We note an association between residents’ preoccupations with the conflict’s emotional effects on their lives and their consistent avoidance from criticising the state’s policies regarding its management or potential transformation. This transposition of the political with the emotional, we argue, offers a distinct insight into Israelis’ familiar tendency to avoid criticising Israel’s aggressions against the Palestinians: the embeddedness of national security in emotional relationships implicitly constructs political criticism as betrayal of intimate relations.
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Keywords: Israel; armed conflict; emotions; resilience; trauma

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Haifa, Israel 2: Ben Gurion University, Israel

Publication date: May 1, 2021

This article was made available online on March 15, 2021 as a Fast Track article with title: "Emotionalising national security, depoliticising the Israeli-Palestinian conflict".

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  • Emotions and Society aims to publish high-quality, original peer-reviewed articles which advance theoretical and empirical understanding of emotions in social life. It is associated with the European Sociological Association's (ESA) Research Network on Sociology of Emotions (RN11), but seeks submissions from a wide range of international authors writing in this area. The sociology of emotions has developed unique perspectives on emotions that attend to their social construction and the ways in which they are embedded in social structures and inhere in social processes. The Journal seeks to expand the largely unexhausted potential for developing innovative approaches not only to emotions per se, but through it to the social generally. All methodological approaches to studying emotions are welcome, but they should demonstrate rigour and be framed in ways that will be of interest to sociologically inclined scholars.

    A key feature of the Journal will be to develop both a uniquely sociological perspective on emotions, while also engaging in interdisciplinary exchanges. This interdisciplinarity will emerge not only from the character of present scholarly debates on emotions, but from the diversity of disciplines represented in the ESA Research Network. We welcome submissions from neighbouring fields, especially cultural studies, history, philosophy and social psychology. Psychology of emotions is quite well represented in existing journals and papers will be considered only insofar as their focus is interactional rather than biological. The Journal seeks to publish articles based on original research into the social aspects of emotions and emotional life. This may include contributions to theoretical debates in the area. Substantial review articles may also be considered. Principally we are looking for theoretical or theoretically informed empirical papers that engage with key concepts and debates of interest to sociologists of emotion, even if they do so from outside the discipline.

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