Areas of expertise: Religion, nationalism, and peacebuilding; diasporas and conflict transformation and peace; multiculturalism, conflict transformation and justice; theories and methods in the study of religion
Atalia Omer earned her Ph.D. (November 2008) from the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University. Her research interests include the theoretical study of the interrelation between religion and nationalism; religion, nationalism, and peacebuilding; religion and international and global relation, the role of national/religious/ethnic diasporas in the dynamics of conflict transformation and peace; solidarity and long-distance activism, multiculturalism as a framework for conflict transformation and as a theory of justice; the role of subaltern narratives in reimagining questions of peace and justice; intra-group dialogue and the contestation of citizenship in ethno-religious national contexts; and the symbolic appropriation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in other zones of conflict. Omer also intervenes in debates on theories and methods in the academic study of religion and questions pivoting around gender, religion, and development practice and theory.
Omer’s first book, When Peace is Not Enough: How the Israeli Peace Camp Thinks about Religion, Nationalism, and Justice (University of Chicago Press) examines the way the Israeli peace camp addresses interrelationships between religion, ethnicity, and nationality and how it interprets justice vis-à-vis the Palestinian conflict. This work scrutinizes the “visions of peace” and the “visions of citizenship” articulated by a wide spectrum of groups, ranging from Zionist to non-Zionist and secular to religious orientations.
In addition to identifying the role of religion in reinterpreting the parameters of national belonging, the book focuses on the perceptions of marginalized groups within the Israeli and Jewish contexts. In so doing, Omer highlights how hybrid identities may provide creative resources for peacebuilding, especially in ethnoreligious national conflicts where political agenda are informed by particularistic and often purist conceptions of identity.
Omer has published articles in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the Journal of Religious Ethics; Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal; the Journal of Political Theology, the Study of Nationalism and Ethnicity, the International Journal of Peace Studies, Critical Sociology and Method & Theory in the Study of Religion.
Omer’s second solo-authored book project, titled From Zion to New York: Refiguring American Jewish Ethics and Identity through Solidarity with Palestinians (under contract with University of Chicago Press) explores why divergences in conceptions of national identity between “homeland” and “diasporas” could facilitate the proliferation of loci of analysis and foci of peacebuilding efforts which are yet under-explored both in peace studies and specific scholarship addressing the relations between diasporas and conflict.
On the basis of extensive interviews, participant observations, and a systematic study of conversations unfolding on social media and blogs, From Zion to New York City examines the phenomenon of Jewish-American critics of Israel and Palestine solidarity activism as constituting a social movement.
Taking a broad historical view of patterns of Jewish religiosity in the U.S., the book asks why these critics changed the focus of their solidarity from Israel to Palestine as well as how they continue to participate in a process of reimagining Jewish-American identity, on the one hand, and of furthering the objectives of a global Palestine solidarity movement, on the other.
As a locally situated, distant issue movement, Jewish Palestine solidarity offers a grassroots critique and a transformative agenda for the local Jewish-American landscape while also critiquing Israeli policies and Zionist interpretations of Jewish identity. This book examines the intentional participation of this movement in intra-traditional work that seeks to provincialize Zion from Jewish identity and inter-traditional work that seeks to undo the intersections between Islamophobia in the U.S. and the marginalizing and silencing of lives in Palestine.
Inter-traditional work is also examined as pivotal to the movement’s efforts to deconstruct the conflation of critique of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism. Likewise, the movement participates in a broader, intersectional solidarity analysis that connects Palestinian struggles with other sites of injustice, both locally and globally, from #BlackLivesMatter to protests against the wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
The book highlights the points of connections and departures of Jewish Palestine Solidarity from the broader, global, Palestine solidarity social movement and how these departures and convergences participate in refiguring Jewish-American identity. Omer’s next research project will look specifically at the intersections of religion, gender, and development, with a particular examination of feminist religious innovations as articulated, practiced, and diffused by local and global actors operating explicitly within the discursive terrains of their traditions or cultural underpinnings.
Omer also is the co-author (with Jason A. Springs) of Religious Nationalism: A Reference Handbook (ABC-CLIO, 2013), and co-editor with Scott Appleby and David Little of the Oxford Handbook of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding (Oxford University Press, 2015). This book provides a state-of-the-art exposition of this new field of theoretical research.
Omer co-directs, with Scott Appleby and Ebrahim Moosa, Contending Modernities, the global research and education initiative examining the interaction among Catholic, Muslim, and other religious and secular forces in the world.
Omer is also a co-chair of the Religion, Social Conflicts, and Peace Group at the American Academy of Religion and a faculty affiliate of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the Notre Dame.
She also was the recipient of a research fellowship from the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Studies (Fall 2011), Charlotte W. Newcombe’s Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (2007), and Harvard University Merit Fellowship (2006). She was a doctoral fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University (2002-2004) and a Graduate Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University (2006-2008).
- “Hitmazrehut or Becoming of the East: Re-Orienting Israeli Sociology,” Critical Sociology, forthcoming. Available in advance view here (published online 9/23/2015):
- “Nationalism and the Comparative Study of Religious Ethics: Future Trajectories,” Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 98:3, 2015: 322-353.
- “Modernist Despite Themselves?The Limits of Critique as an Instrument of Change,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, (March 2015) 83.1: 27-71.
- Blog post: "When I See Them, I See Us": Symbolisms, Analogies, and Cross-Movement Solidarity (Mobilizing Ideas)
- “Promoting Interreligious Tolerance in Upper Egypt” Contending Modernities: A Blog About Catholic, Muslim, and Secular Interaction in the Modern World 14 October 2016
- “United for Girls’ Rights: A Reflection” Contending Modernities: A Blog About Catholic, Muslim, and Secular Interaction in the Modern World 6 October 2016
- “Bridging Ethnoreligious Divides in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Choosing Peace Together through Interreligious Action for Conflict Transformation” Contending Modernities: A Blog About Catholic, Muslim, and Secular Interaction in the Modern World 3 October 2016
- “Inter-Religious Action in Central Mindanao: Applying Binding, Bonding, and Bridging (A3B) to Land Conflict” Contending Modernities: A Blog About Catholic, Muslim, and Secular Interaction in the Modern World 19 September 2016