Dr. Oded Lowehneim, Dept. of International Relations


I am a Senior Lecturer (tenured, equivalent to US and Canada Associate Professor) in the department of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. 

In recent years, my scholarly focus is autoethnography. I study my own experience in a culture of conflict in order to provide new understandings about the way political violence constructs people's subjectivity and daily conduct. I also see autoethnogrpahy as a way to resist and challenge structures and cultures of conflict, violence, and militancy. These issues are further explored here: "The I in IR: An Autoethnographic Account" (Review of International Studies, October 2010), and: "Back to Hebron’s Tegart Fort: An Autoethnography of Shame, Love, Loss,and the De-Securitization of the Self,Journal of Narrative Politics (March 2015).


My new book is The Politics of the Trail: Reflexive Mountain Biking along the Frontier of Jerusalem (The University of Michigan Press, 2014). 
 The Politics of the Trail is an autoethnographic story of a university professor’s daily mountain bicycle rides along the frontier of Jerusalem. Each day, when Oded Löwenheim commutes from his home in a suburb of Jerusalem to the Mt. Scopus campus of the Hebrew University, he passes various symbols and debris of past, present, and future violence and conflict. Through the strong embodied experience of mountain biking on dirt trails and wadis in the hills of Jerusalem, he establishes a strong emotional connection to these places and spaces. But for him this connection also generates, paradoxically, feelings and emotions of confusion and estrangement.

In this book, Löwenheim confronts this tension by focusing on his encounters with three spaces and places along the trail that represent the past, present, and possible future of the culture of conflict in Israel and Palestine: the separation fence/barrier between Israel and the Palestinians (present); the 1948 demolished Palestinian village Qalunya (past); and the trail that connects the largest 9/11 memorial site outside the US with a top-secret nuclear-proof bunker for the Israeli cabinet (present and possible future). He writes the stories of these places and the people he meets in the hills in order to share with readers the burden that stems from being exposed to, and from exposing, this landscape of conflict. Sharing this pain serves various theoretical and practical ends. Sharing, Löwenheim believes, enables him to show how his own subjectivity is constituted by the conflict (and thus help readers to think about the ways in which their own subjectivity is constructed by the Political). Moreover, he intends to deconstruct, challenge, and resist those very concepts and institutions that constitute the culture of conflict from the outset. Löwenheim asks: Can one indeed emancipate oneself from the grip of a culture of violence, and at what social and emotional price? In this sense, his bike ride becomes an act of reflexive de-commuting and an effort to create a space for dialogue and resistance to conflict as a culture.

The Politics of the Trail also raises questions about the concept of authenticity and moves back and forth between micro- and macro-politics. Löwenheim's auto-ethnographic account explores the connections between the international and the local levels of politics, and shows how the personal is intimately intertwined with the political. By bringing in the personal viewpoint and experience of himself as an IR academic in the field, on his mountain bike, Löwenheim leaves behind him the remote and detached narrative of academia, developing, instead, an account that aspires to transcend conflict and remind readers the humanity of both the producers and subjects of political research.”


The book begins by defining the concept of “Persistent Agents of Transnational Harm” (PATHs) as actors that intentionally or knowingly propagate cross-border material damages (harm), while ignoring structures of authority in world politics. Then I proceed to present a theory of Great Power (GP) authority, a move which is followed by a theoretical account of the causes of GP punishment of PATHs. While traditional IR theory posits that there is no authority in international politics due to its anarchical structure, I develop the Weberian concept of “traditional” authority as distinct from hierarchical or formal modes of authority. I call on IR scholars to abandon the anarchy/hierarchy dichotomy (which is a major constitutive concept of the field) by broadening our understanding of authority in world politics. I show that GPs enjoy traditional authority in international politics, and then account for this authority as a product of the institutionalization of cross-border organized violence. In particular, I conceptualize authority as legitimate power, and highlight authority’s second facet: beyond instructing actors what to do (the first facet of authority), authority also consists of the capability to define the legitimate ways to resist power (i.e., defining what not to do). In this context, I argue that GP punishment of PATHs is first and foremost determined by the challenge to GP authority that the harmful practice represents. Harmful practices that directly and fundamentally challenge the institutions of violence in world politics (mainly, by illegitimately resisting authority) elicit a harsher response than practices that only abuse or indirectly confront these institutions. PATHs of the more challenging kind are deemed by the GPs as predators, which are bent on destroying the tenets of world order. On the other hand, abusers of GP authority or indirect challengers are perceived as “mere” parasites, even though the material harm they cause, in the long-term, can be much more costly and extensive. In what I believe is an important addition to IR theory, I utilize Michel Foucault’s insights about discipline and punishment to account for the spectacular elements in GP treatment of predatory PATHs. With this theoretical framework, I then analyze two historic case studies of GP interaction with PATHs (both of the predatory and the parasitic kinds), and compare these cases to the current US-led “War on Terror.”

A further project that deals with authority in world politics was an article that studied the phenomenon of rating and ranking the 'performance' of states in various spheres such as governance, anti-corruption, economy, democracy, human rights etc., as a technology of power that establishes or maintains relations of authority in world politics. See my article "Examining the State:  A Foucauldian perspective on international ‘governance indicators’," in Third World Quarterly: 

- Emotions in world politics. I am interested in questions of affect in state conduct -- do states have feelings? What is the influence of emotions on state conduct in world politics? See my and Gadi Heimann's article in Security Studies, titled "Revenge in International Politics."

- Foucauldian theory and IR. I find Foucault's ideas about power and knowledge compelling. Thus, for example, in a joint article with Orit Gazit ("Power and Examination: A Critique of Citizenship Tests," Security Dialogue 40(2), April 2009), we employ Foucauldian notions about power and knowledge to investigate the ways citizenship tests to immigrants in western states constitute the relations between the state and those who were not born under its authority. (link to the article: ).

Current research projects ("under construction"):

- "Attachment to Place? A Guided Tour at the Mt. Scopus Campus of the Hebrew University."

- "No Regrets? An Alternative Reading of Israeli and Jewish Alternate History Novels."

- "Covering Up: The IR Book Cover and the Imaginary of the Discipline."

The courses I teach at Hebrew U. are
- Novelty and Conservatism in the Research and Teaching of IR
- Science Fiction and (International) Politics

contact information: oded.lowenheim at mail.huji.ac.il

phone: +972-2-588 3165 (office)


Idit Wagner עידית וגנר צלמת,
13 ביולי 2015, 23:19