Uriel Abulof

Uriel Abulof photo

Visiting Associate Research Scholar, Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination

3-C-23 Green Hall
Angella Matheney
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  • political sociology
  • International Relations
  • Revolutions
  • Middle East
  • political legitimacy
  • Discourse
  • Existentialism


Uriel Abulof is an associate professor of Politics at Tel-Aviv University and a senior research fellow at Princeton University’s LISD / Woodrow Wilson School. He received his PhD in International Relations from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and was subsequently a Fulbright Scholar and a lecturer at NYU and Princeton University. Dr. Abulof studies political legitimation and violence, focusing on nationalism, democratization, revolutions and ethnic conflicts in, and beyond, the Middle East.


Abulof's first book Living on the Edge: The Existential Uncertainty of Zionism (Haifa University Press) received Israel’s best academic book award (Bahat Prize).
He recently completed his second book, The Mortality and Morality of Nations (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press).
Abulof is also the co-editor of Self-Determintion in the 21st Century (forthcoming, Routledge).

The Mortality and Morality of Nations, Cambridge Unviersity Press, 2015

Standing at the edge of life's abyss, we seek meaningful order. We commonly find this 'symbolic immortality' in religion, civilization, state and nation. What happens, however, when the nation itself appears mortal? The Mortality and Morality of Nation seeks to answer this question, theoretically and empirically. It argues that mortality makes morality, and right makes might; the nation's sense of a looming abyss informs its quest for a higher moral ground, which, if reached, can bolster its vitality. The book investigates nationalism's promise of moral immortality and its limitations via three case studies: French Canadians, Israeli Jews, and Afrikaners. All three have been insecure about the validity of their identity or the viability of their polity, or both. They have sought partial redress in existential self-legitimation: by the nation, of the nation and for the nation's very existence.

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Recent and forthcoming peer-reviewed articles include:

Small Peoples: The Existential Uncertainty of Ethnonational Communities” (International Studies Quarterly); "Public Political Thought: Bridging the Sociological-Philosophical Divide in the Study of Legitimacy" (British Journal of Sociology); "We the Peoples? The Strange Demise of Self-Determination" (European Journal of International Relations); “Land, Blood and Ballots: The Curious Case of Resident Alien Franchise” (International Studies Review); “Nuclear Diversion Theory and Legitimacy Crisis: The Case of Iran" (Politics & Policy); “Normative Concepts Analysis: Unpacking the Language of Legitimation” (International Journal of Social Research Methodology); "National Ethics in Ethnic Conflicts: The Zionist ‘Iron Wall’ and the ‘Arab Question’,” (Ethnic and Racial Studies); “Deep Securitization and Israel’s ‘Demographic Demon’,” (International Political Sociology); “Revisiting Iran’s Nuclear Rationales” (International Politics); “‘Can't Buy Me Legitimacy’: The Elusive Stability of Mideast Rentier Regimes” (Journal of International Relations and Development);  “The Role of Religion in National Legitimation: Judaism and Zionism’s Elusive Quest for Legitimacy” (Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion); The Malpractice of Rationality in International Relations (Rationality and Society); "Mirage or Vision: Binationalism in Theory and Practice" (Ethnopolitics); “The People Want(s) to Bring Down the Regime”: Rethinking Nationalism and Legitimacy in the Arab World (Nations and Nationalism); The Confused Compass: From Self-Determination to State-Determination (Ethnopolitics); and, with Ogen Goldman, The Domestic Democratic Peace in the Middle East (International Journal of Conflict and Violence).

Academic Projects:

At LISD, Uriel is involved in the projects on State, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination and Religion, Diplomacy, and International Relations (PORDIR). He aids the work on the Princeton Encyclopedia of Self-Determination, and is leading the Diachronic Global Corpus (DiGCor) initiative, which seeks to uncover the global flow of political ideas though sophisticated analysis of text, speech, and natural language on a large scale [Read an interview about the project on H-Nationalism]. He organized several international workshops, including Public Justification in World Politics (March 2014), The Perils and Promises of Self-Determination in the Twenty-First Century (April 2014), and Whither Self-Determination? (April 2015).

Abulof has published extensively in various public venues, contributing essays and op-eds to both Hebrew and English outlets (such as Haaretz and the Huffington Post). He is also an editorial staff member and writer for the Eretz Acheret (A Different Land) Hebrew Journal.

Israel-related Book Reviews:

Recent HuffPost entries:


Teaching Materials

During the Academic year 2014-2015, Professor Uriel Abulof, serving also as AICE Visiting Research Scholar in Israel Studies, will lead two weekly seminars, one each semester, on contemporary Israel. The seminars are open to faculty, post-doc researchers, and graduate and undergraduate students, across all disciplines. The first seminar was DiametricaLand—The Enigma of Modern Israel. The second is Reading Nietzsche in Jerusalem: Existentialism & Nationalism.