Winter schoolPublikationsdatum 06.04.2023

Co-inhabiting Urban Spaces - Winter school in Haifa, Israel

Co-inhabiting Urban Spaces: Residential infrastructure, built environment and communal activism in Haifa

This winter school is a practice-oriented teaching unit, in which the students will conduct collaborative field-based research projects. It is organized by the Social Anthropology Unit at the University of Fribourg in collaboration with the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Haifa, and will be open to MA and advanced BA students of anthropology from the Universities of Fribourg, Bern, and Neuchâtel. Students at the University of Haifa will also participate in the school’s activities.


Theme and location

Haifa has been a thriving town and administrative center since the nineteenth century and is today Israel’s third-largest city. In the early twentieth century, Jews and Palestinians made up roughly equal parts of the city’s population, with business relationships, friendship, and dwelling transcending religious borders. Haifa also stands more than any other place for the nakba (‘catastrophe’, in Arabic): 95% of the 70,000 Palestinians living in Haifa were expulsed during the 1948 war. Furthermore, expropriation, ruination and renovation of buildings, and more have all continued to strip Haifa of its Palestinian past. Since the 1990s, however, Haifa has regained its status as a city of coexistence and as a cultural and intellectual center for Palestinians in Israel. There are Palestinian restaurants, theaters, and clubs, as well as community initiatives fostering multireligious dialogue, campaigning against racism, and fighting for social equality. Still, most Jews and Palestinians live separate from each other, with socio-economic differences and essentialist ideas of national differences preventing deeper engagements between the two groups.

The long and multifaceted history of Palestinian presence and displacement has shaped the cityscape over the years and produced a puzzle of neighborhoods that vary greatly in their composition, social dynamics, and appearance. Recent demographic developments, such as the growth of Haifa’s ultraorthodox population, as well as the arrival of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, guest workers from the Philippines and refugees from Eritrea and Sudan, are further transforming these neighborhoods. In this winter school, we will focus on the different realities of life and forms of coexistence in selected neighborhoods: the mixed neighborhood of Hadar, where many projects advocating coexistence take place; Downtown Haifa, with its Palestinian restaurants and clubs; the Jewish business area of Central Carmel; Wadi Salib with its abandoned Ottoman buildings and the neighborhood of Kiryat Shmuel with its growing Jewish Orthodox population. We will explore how different realities of life manifest in and through the infrastructures and materialities of the city, and how residents shape the neighborhoods and their built environment through everyday activities. In doing so, we attempt to render tangible the social dynamics, ambivalences, and tensions that make up today’s Haifa.


Interested students are expected to submit their letters of interest (max. 1 page outlining their interest in social anthropology and in the winter school more specifically) to Dr. Sibylle Lustenberger ( by 1 June 2023. The admitted students will be notified per email by 15 June, after which a brief information meeting will be organized.


Dr. Sibylle Lustenberger, Prof. Agnieszka Joniak-Lüthi, Prof. Madlen Kobi Department for Social Sciences, University of Fribourg