Dr. Liron Shani: Nature and Society
Dr. Liron Shani grew up in a family of farmers in Israel’s Arava region, one of the last areas in Israel to have an agriculture-based economy. He moved to Jerusalem to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, receiving both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in sociology and anthropology.
Yet moving to the big city didn’t sever Dr. Shani’s agricultural roots, rather it shaped his academic interests: studying the tension between how different groups interpret nature, how these interpretations are used towards political ends, and how each group’s actions affect society and the environment. His research artfully weaves together anthropology, geography, science and technology, and public policy.
In July 2020, Dr. Shani returned to the Hebrew University as an assistant professor in the department of anthropology. One of his projects is Digitized Nature, in which he examines how big data, algorithms, and computational methods change how we understand, represent, and relate to all aspects of human life and, in particular, nature. One example is “precision agriculture” – the use of big data to optimize crop yields.
Another example is his research into alien species – which are species that occur outside their natural range and dispersal potential, often due to human activity. Dr. Shani studies how these species are viewed by various communities, in popular culture, and in the political debates that surround them.
Globally, nature and the environment have long been subject to the anthropological gaze; yet in Israel, this field is burgeoning – largely thanks to Dr. Shani’s work.
“I am incredibly happy in the Department and excited to develop the field of anthropology and the environment in Israel through the Hebrew University.”
Dr. Shani is also the founder and operator of Behevrat Haadam, a website and adjacent Facebook page on anthropology in Israel and in the world.