Prof. Yoram Bilu

Buber Fellow: 
2011 to 2013
Senior Fellow Description: 

I completed my studies at the Hebrew University (M.A. in clinical psychology, 1972; Ph.D. in anthropology, 1979) and served as a professor of anthropology and psychology there until my retirement in 2010. Focusing on Israeli society and Jewish traditional culture, my research interests include (1) the anthropology of religion, (2) culture and mental health, (3) the sanctification of space in Israel, and (4) Maghrebi Jewish culture. As a psychological anthropologist, my research perspective has always been Janus-faced, seeking to highlight the interface between the individual level of social actors and the collective level of social norms, cultural symbols and political ideologies. In the domain of religion I studied the renaissance of saint worship among Israelis of Moroccan background, and, more recently, the messianic fervor that seized the Hasidic movement of Chabad-Lubavitch, exploring the cultural tool kit used by the Hasidim to make their absent Rabbi (and designated messiah) present. In the field of culture and mental health (only analytically separated from the former), my research interests include Jewish Moroccan “ethnopsychiatry,” manifestations of spirit possession in various Jewish communities, and culture-sensitive therapy with Jewish ultra-orthodox clients. The third domain aforementioned gave rise to course I will be teaching at the University of Chicago in the Spring Quarter of 2012, “The Sanctification of Space in Contemporary Israel.” The class will explore the myriad ways in which “the idea of the holy” is imprinted on the land in contemporary Israel.
I served as the chair of the department of psychology (1992-4) and the head of the Authority for Doctoral Students, both at Hebrew University, and as the president of the Israeli Anthropological Association (1989-1991). I have been a visiting professor at several American Universities including UC San Diego, Brandeis University, and the Jewish Theological Seminary. My recent book is: The Saints’ Impresarios: Dreamers, Healers, and Holy Men in Israel’s Urban Periphery. Brighton, MA: Academic Studies Press (2010).

Curriculum Vitae: