Ella Ben Hagai

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How do the stories we tell about ourselves shape the way we respond to issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the battle for sexual minority rights, and class inequalities in the United States? Ella Ben Hagai’s work illuminates the intersection between our sense of self and politics.


Ben Hagai was trained in anthropology at the London School of Economics and in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. She received her Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In her research she explores how the stories people tell themselves about who they are disposes them to agree with certain political ideologies and policies. She uses qualitative methods to illuminate basic root narratives about the self, and quantitative methods to examine how these narratives predict policy support. She is currently exploring the relationship between root narratives and politics in three lines of research: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, youth alliance with LGBTQ rights, and support for neoliberal policies in the United States. Her research has been published in applied and basic journals such as Peace and Conflict, Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy, and Sex Roles. With Faye Crosby, she co-organized the Conflict and Compassion Speaker Series at the University of California Santa Cruz, presenting students, faculty, and community members with a range of perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ben Hagai was a faculty member at Bennington from Fall 2016-Spring 2019.

Selected Publications:

We Didn’t Talk About the Conflict: The Birthright Trip’s Influence on Jewish Americans’ Understanding of the Israeli– Palestinian Conflict; Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, Ben Hagai, Whitlatch, A., & Zurbriggen, E. L. (2018).

Intersecting Alliances: Non-Palestinian Activists in Support of Palestine. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, Hill, S., Ben Hagai, E., & Zurbriggen, E. L. (2018). 

Between Tikkun Olam and Self-Defense: Young Jewish Americans Debate the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Journal of Social and Political Psychology. Ben Hagai, E., & Zurbriggen, E. L. (2017). 

Queering Bem: Theoretical intersections between Sandra Bem’s scholarship and queer theory. Sex Roles, 76 (11-12), 655-668. Carr, B. B., Ben Hagai, E.& Zurbriggen, E. L. (2017).