Globes asked five promising doctoral students to tell what influenced their choice of track and how the research they do today can help us in the future
The decision to become an investigator: “I wanted to be a tour guide, but when I wrote a seminar in psychology, I really enjoyed the process of weaving more and more research into more and more complex ideas. The feeling was of creating art, of self.expression. It fascinated me. So I left the trips as a hobby.”
From female leadership to terrorist organizations: As part of her graduate studies in social psychology, Shaul focused on the study of female leadership. “I came across studies by Professor Alice Eagle of Northwestern University, which dealt with characteristics of female versus male leadership, and how women sometimes experience identical conflict because traits that are considered essential to a leader were not considered feminine.
“I, too, as an IDF commander, felt a kind of dissonance. When I’m in uniform, it’s like there’s no integration between my identity as an officer and my identity as Smadar. When I read Eagle’s research on the male clique, and the challenge of women’s leadership in a male environment, it gave me peace of mind. I realized that it was not just me, that it was an area that was being researched, that it had a name. “
In her research, Shaul showed that the more women were able to combine their leadership identity with the female identity, the more they experienced themselves and were experienced by the group they led as more authentic and more effective leadership.
In her Ph.D., Saul moved away from her private conflict to the research of terrorist organizations. “During my master’s degree in social psychology, I was involved, as a research assistant, in projects on political violence, and the processes in networks that exacerbate conflicts between groups, and that’s how I was drawn to this world.
“Among other things, I participated in a study that dealt with the phenomenon of knives in Israel, in the years 2015.2016, which spread as a social epidemic. We attribute our feelings to something that has happened to us, but we have actually adopted the feelings of others.
“For example, there was a case where someone was injured by IDF soldiers and she wanted to carry out an attack, so there can be different and varied reactions to that. On social media, they said, “Imagine this is your sister,” as a tool for emotional contagion. “
Why a doctorate in history: “When I realized I wanted to stay in the research field and do a doctorate, I was already deep in research dealing with terrorist organizations and radicalization processes. I wanted to research the phenomenon from the cultural space in which it exists, so I decided to do my doctorate in history, which allowed me to study Arabic and Islam.”
As part of his doctorate, Shaul researches radicalization processes in the Afghanistan.Pakistan region during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, while at the same time being a research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University.
The study meets current events: The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban has turned the spotlight on its field of study. “To assess the situation, it is important to get acquainted with local society and culture, to recognize the differences between ethnic groups in the space and the historical relations between them, to recognize the presence of regional terrorist organizations and the movement’s historical aspirations, and to assess the movement’s ability to compromise. She’s interested.
“In the study, I go back to the years of the Soviet invasion, and the arrival of Muslim volunteers in the area to assist Afghan fighters in withdrawing the Soviets from the country. Extensively, in an attempt to understand whether the Taliban will live up to a commitment not to allow organizations to export terrorism from Afghanistan.
“One of the interesting ways is to read memoirs of foreign volunteers and Afghan fighters that reveal what everyday life looked like in the area in those years. “In the streets, men are forced to grow old and avoid music and smoking.” These days, Shaul is engaged in the study of women under Taliban rule.
Terrorism and gender: “Often, unintentionally, the gender conflict comes into play. For example, when I researched the Boko Haram movement in Nigeria, which uses women as suicide bombers, often unwillingly, or the issue of women in Afghanistan. But the magic is in the ability to reach from a single person to a much broader phenomenon. “