Since arriving at Queen’s, Dr Merav Amir has become established in a short time as an important new voice among the University’s influential group of scholars engaged in research on conflict and post-conflict societies.
A lecturer in the School of Natural and Built Environment, she has also become a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice (ISCTSJ) and is broadening the scope of her research through new projects and collaborations.
When she came to Belfast in 2013 she already had an international reputation. Her PhD at Tel Aviv University related to – ‘the way in which borders come into play in regions where there are no normative border divisions. I looked at how border elements are played into spatial control in the Occupied Territories.
‘I developed that to include questions of security and how it is associated with different types of technologies to manage populations identified as bearers of risk and how it reaches beyond conflict zones into more mundane, everyday environments.
‘I’m also looking at activism, especially how the very physical embodiment of activists can intervene in the dynamics of power and how it sometimes has effects that haven’t been conceived by the activists themselves or by the people they’re engaging with.’
She is also examining where activism fails when the intentions and plans of activists go astray and she is looking at the way in which gender identities play a part in these interactions.
As someone involved with research of this nature, the prospect of working in Belfast had an appeal. ‘There aren’t strong parallels between Northern Ireland and IsraelPalestine but there are similarities – although the minute you try to interpret one conflict through a different one, you’re at a loss.
‘However, I find that people here have an understanding of the complexity that comes with conflict. It feels as if the conversation starts from a different level, simply because people have experienced conflict at first hand.
‘But I’m now thinking about the concept of post-conflict, what it means and where we’re headed and what it takes to get beyond a persistent post-conflict situation which still plays out in everyday life. We need to think about how we can really create a cohesive society.’
Her aim is to develop a project that examines different regions in different post-conflict stages, to enable not only collaborative work with Queen’s colleagues but to provide a very broad perspective on conflict resolution.
With Dr Evi Chatzipanagiotidou, from the School of History and Anthropology, she has led an ISCTSJ Interdisciplinary Research Group with the theme of Reshaping Security in Conflict and Beyond – ‘looking at security and conflict in the everyday.’ The concluding conference involved a gathering of Queen’s and international academics.
For the second year in a row she has also led the Political Concepts Workshop. This brings academics from around the world together with the aim to create a revised political lexicon to help us better understand the world in which we live and act, with the social sciences and the humanities at large making a significant contribution. This two-year project was chosen to be supported by the University’s International Engagement Fund.
Merav acknowledges the support of several colleagues, among them Professor Hastings Donnan and former colleague Professor Peter Shirlow at the Institute and Professor David Livingstone and Dr Nuala Johnson at the School of Natural and Built Environment.
She says, ‘There’s something happening in Geography generally in the UK but particularly here. Elsewhere it’s very conservative, bound within the limits of its own discipline. At Queen’s, there’s much more openness, it’s much more diverse and I'm very happy to be able to do my research at Queen's.