About the Department

The Program for Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies was established in 1999, the first in Israel to offer advanced degrees in this field. In the spirit of similar programs established in Europe and in the United States, the program houses under the same roof researchers whose common intellectual interests lie in the intersection of disciplines of knowledge and of various theoretical and interpretative tools. This new field of knowledge assumes that there is nothing that cannot be interpreted and investigated as a cultural phenomenon. The term “culture” appears here in a new context, not only as activity traditionally considered high culture (art, literature or music) but also the entire spectrum of organized human activities occurring in the context of language, social institutions and practices. The Program for Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies deals with all aspects of the cultural and hermeneutic realm: theories of hermeneutics, interpretation of texts, analysis of social institutions and practices. All these areas deal with the interpretation of facts, cultural texts and human behaviors,  intersecting between the humanities, natural and social sciences, Judaic studies, law and the arts.

The human is an interpretative being. Human beings – individuals and societies – conduct their lives through constant interpretation of their actions, values, world and the totality of their activity. The interpretive act is not only the dominion of cultural researchers but rather is first and foremost the dominion of each person operating in the world and attempting to constantly impart meaning on the different areas of his/her activity. Interpretative activity is one of the prominent characteristics of human existence. Man, as a human being, does not make do with action only; on the contrary, his actions are accompanied by an explanation or understanding of those actions. The art of interpretation is usually immersed in the practice itself, not illumined by the light of systematic recognition and consciousness.

Yet sometimes interpretation becomes an independent object, and then attention is deflected from the practical realm to the theoretical. This move signals the inception of the systematic work involved in the decoding, analysis and description of human areas of activity in which hermeneutics are implicitly embodied. This systematic work is the work of the theoretician, and it marks the transformation of the implicit interpretation in practice into an independent moment. Over time, theories also developed explaining interpretative activity – this field is known as the theory of interpretation or hermeneutics and by nature is interdisciplinary – as did theories of discourse seeking to understand the way in which culture is constructed as discursive constructions in which it is impossible to separate questions of power and knowledge. These theories raise a new series of questions, like, for example: Who is the interpretative being? Is it a man or woman? From which culture? Who is allowed to ask what and in which circumstances? Does one become a subject, or is one born a subject?  Is the subject consciousness? Or is the subject embodied consciousness? And, what are the conditions that transform particular knowledge into legitimate knowledge at a given historical moment? The Program for Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies imparts new tools for cultural critique and teaches a wide variety of theories: hermeneutics, critical theories, marxism and neo-marxism, post-structuralism, gender studies, post-colonialism, theories of space, visual culture studies, anthropological and sociological theories and cultural studies.