Joel Hart DPhil Anthropology

Supervisor: Prof. Michael Keith

College affiliation: St Antony’s

Joel is a DPhil candidate in the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and COMPAS. He holds an MPhil in Social Anthropology from Cambridge University (High Pass), an MA in Near and Middle East studies from SOAS (Distinction), and a BA Hons in Philosophy from King’s College London (First Class).

His research interests are in urban anthropology, the anthropology of the built environment, urban planning and design, multiculturalism and racism, the political geography of Israel/Palestine, diasporas and social memory, and the anthropology of food.

He conducted his doctoral research in two diverse low-income neighbourhoods of ex-social housing in Jaffa, Israel/Palestine. These neighbourhoods are in the southern most part of the city, historically the agricultural areas that grew the fruit of Palestine’s greatest industry, the production and circulation of the world-famous Shamouti orange. The orchards surrounded well-houses (biarat), which also became known as dwelling arrangements. Some large families remained after the 1948 war, in which Jaffa’s Arab population was reduced by 97%. In the 1950s, Jewish immigrants (olim) from the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East arrived in their thousands to Jaffa, and after years spent in transit camps (ma’abarot) and ex-Palestinian homes, were housed in the 1960s in standardized housing units known as shikunim. Over decades, two biarat grew into ‘villages-within-neighbourhoods’, gated compounds in legal battles with the state and municipality, juxtaposing the shikunim.

Joel’s research was a multi scalar, multi-agential ethnography exploring distinctive spatial, temporal and methodological lenses, and different agencies in the making of the city. His approach is to interrogate the meaning of modernist Israeli urban creation in an area of significant collective memory to Palestinians, asking how the dialectics of Israeli placemaking and Palestinian space (majal) delimit urban diversity and complicate quotidian convivialities. He also illustrates how the arrival of new immigrants to South Jaffa in recent decades, and the emergence of an Ethiopian Jewish community undergoing racial discrimination, raises new questions about the contradictions of race, place and space in the ‘mixed’ Jewish Arab-City and Israel/Palestine in general. Seeing the city from multiple scales, he argues that governmental zones, plans, and discourses have produced a conspicuously constructed diversity that at once orders a Jewish place (makom) and an ethnicised urban periphery, but is likewise haunted by memories of open and distinctive spatial pasts that create ambiguous, liminal experiences of the city. Everyday spatial encounter and navigation is thus understood through these processes which frame and limit interactions, but also invite ironic forms of urban identity and political possibility.

He has previously conducted research on diaspora, memory and identity amongst Iraqi Jews in London. Developing some of the themes from this research, he has been working with Prof Daniel Monterescu on a project on the social life of amba, an Iraqi mango pickle. Through the lens of amba, they observe developments in Iraqi-Jewish identities, and consider the politics of culinary territorialization in the Middle East.


Urbanism, Space/Place, Race, Diasporas, Food


Monterescu, D. And Hart, J.R. (forthcoming) “The sensorial life of amba: Nostalgia, taste and identity for Iraqis in London and Israel.” Food, Senses and the City. London: Routledge.