Research topics in the Social Studies Unit include anthropology, sociology, regional development, human geography, and economic history of people in drylands. Interdisciplinary investigations also include resource and proactive contingency planning, and crisis management. Special attention is given to processes of urban and rural settlement of Bedouin.
Major research areas:
o Studies of Bedouin culture and society: the process of modernization of this traditional society; the Beer-Sheva market.
o Proactive contingency planning and interactive crisis management in drylands, including drought and desertification; drought planning and rainwater harvesting for arid-zone pastoralists in Kenya and Israel.
o Cooperative agricultural settlements in Israel, Nigeria, Zambia and Nepal.
o Pastoralism in the Middle East and Africa: the development of villages for shepherds; interaction between nomads and agropastoralists in Botswana's Kalahari desert.
o Settlement in the Negev, with special emphasis on the Hebrew Israelite Communities of African-Americans, immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Mizrahi (Oriental) women.
o Problems peculiar to new immigrants from the former USSR who come from a socialist background and must now cope with a capitalistic society.
o Small group dynamics.
o The political economy of agriculture in Israel and in developing countries: the politics and economics of agricultural technology transfer; the impact of agricultural R&D on economic development; the decollectivization of the Israeli moshav and kibbutz and its consequences; local knowledge as a factor in preventing soil erosion in Burkina Faso.
Members of the unit are part of the Multilateral Working Group on the Environment, Initiative to Combat Desertification in the Middle East. The group is working with local farmers and shepherds to develop sustainable agropastoral systems. The first meeting took place in Amman, Jordan in 1996. Towards this end we worked together with ICARDA, the World Bank, and delegations from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey.
The unit organizes an annual seminar on Bedouin Society and Culture in cooperation with the Field Study Center at Midreshet Sede-Boqer. The lectures are published each year as Notes on the Bedouin - A Series in Memory of Itzhak Netzer. Thus far 31 issues have been published.