Patricia J. Woods, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Department of Political Science and

Center for Jewish Studies 

Affiliate, Center for Global Islamic Studies

Affiliate, Center for Women's Studies and Gender Research

Mailing address:

University of Florida
234 Anderson Hall, Box 117325

Gainesville, FL 32611
Tel: 352-273-2370;
Fax: 352-392-8127

Office: 222 Anderson

Politics Through Feature Film
The Department of Political Science Film Series
2014-2015 Film Schedule
2013-2014 Film Schedule





Fall 2014 Office Hours

Office hours:

222 Anderson Hall

Monday 5th and 6th periods (11:45 a.m. - 1:40 p.m.)

Friday 5th and 6th period (11:45 a.m. - 1:40 p.m.)

Fall 2014 Courses:

CPO 2001 Introduction to Comparative Politics

This is a web course open to UF Online and regular on-line students.  If you are interested in this course, you can check out the following.  Use your Gatorlink or Voice Thread information to log in.

Introductory lecture: Syllabus

Introductory lecture: Course Learning Goals

Introductory lecture: Group Projects

Women and Politics in Israel 

Judicial Power and National Politics
By Patricia J. Woods

Haifa 2010

Jerusalem 1995


Woods August 2014
Patricia J. Woods received her Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Modern Middle East Politics from the University of Washington in 2001. She began as an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Jewish Studies at the University of Florida in August 2001.  She is currently Associate Professor.  In addition to her Ph.D., Dr. Woods received graduate certificates in Comparative Law and Society, and Comparative Gender Politics.  She conducted most of her studies and research there within the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Department of Political Science, and the Department of Near and Middle East Languages and Literatures.  She is trained in Hebrew; French; Arabic (advanced - written); and has elementary training in German, Turkish, and Haitian Creole.  She is trained in ethnographic field work methods, comparative historical field work methods, and has constructed and conducted one national survey.  She has published on field methods, comparative judicial politics, gender politics, religious-secular identity issues, ethnic politics in gender context, and the intersection of law, religion, and gender politics.  The country she knows best is Israel, and she is trained, has done research, and teaches on these issues in the broader Middle East.  She has received national grants for her research from the National Science Foundation, three awards from the Social Science Research Council, the Dorot Foundation, and collegiate awards from the Office of the Provost, University of Florida, as well as travel awards from various departments and centers at the University of Washington and the University of Floirda.  


Dr. Woods has been a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University; Visiting Fellow, Birkbeck College of Law, University of London; Visiting Foreign Researcher, Group d'Analyses des Politiques Publiques, ENS-Cachan, France; Visiting Scholar, Hebrew University Department of Political Science; and visiting affiliate, Tel Aviv University, Department of Sociology and Anthropology.   She has spent time at Haifa University, and at Birzeit University in the West Bank


Prior to her doctoral work, Dr. Woods did Master's and Bachelor's level training in Comparative Religion.  Her MA work centered on Islamic Studies and Jewish Studies.  Her BA work centered on Jewish Studies and Islamic Studies.  She is Associate Professor of Political Science and Jewish Studies at the University of Florida; and Affiliate, Center for Women's Studies and Gender Research.  She specializes in comparative judicial politics, Israel, and Middle East politics, particularly relating to the intersection of religion, law, and gender politics.  Her research on these themes centers on intellectual, political, and communal links between state and social actors.   In her teaching and research, she is most interested in bottom-up socio-political change and the ways that social actors can have an impact on the construction or re-construction of state institutions, in Israel and across the Middle East.


Dr. Woods is Editor of the Series, Gender in Jewish Studies at the Academic Studies Press, a Jewish Studies press in Brighton, MA.  (If you do work on gender -- female or male -- in Jewish Studies, broadly construed, please contact me!)  She is on the Academic Advisory Committee of the Rothberg International School, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  She has been on the Executive Board of the Association for Israel Studies, Program Chair of its largest national conference as of that date (2003), and dissertation workshop Chair (2004) and committee member (2003) for the Association for Israel Studies.  In graduate school, she was co-founder and president of the Association for Israel Studies Graduate Student Organization (1996-2001); she was Graduate-Faculty Liaison for the Middle East Studies Association Graduate Student Organization (1995); and she was Graduate-Faculty Liaison for the Middle East Program at the University of Washington (1994-2001).  


Her book, Judicial Power and National Politics: Courts and Gender in the Religious-Secular Conflict in Israel was published in the State University of New York Series in Israel Studies, 2008.  Keep an eye out for the Second Edition of Judicial Power and National Politics!!  For more on Dr. Woods' publications, see below on this page.  Her selected photos of Jerusalem and Haifa.


Dr. Woods is dedicated to the undergraduate and graduate student missions at the University of Florida.  Her former undergraduates have gone on to do research on women in Bangladesh, gender and Islamic movements in Turkey, ethnic politics and the women's movement in Israel, languge study in various parts of the Middle East, work for the United Nations, law school, clerkships with Florida judges, civil society organizing in Orthodox or secular Israel, and work with U.S. NGOs or government organizations.  Former graduate students who she has helped to advise have gone on to work as professors at several state universities around the U.S., conduct civil society organizing in Sudan, work at universities in South America, and work within the legal profession in the United States and Israel; her graduate students tend to work on judicial politics, bottom-up aspects of state-society relations, historical institutionalism, or Middle East politics.  


In addition, Dr. Woods has written a number of works that take on themes of gender, power, and war; including a screen play of Cleopatra; several rock operas and musicals; several plays; and many short stories.  Some of these works can be found at  The writing blog itself is a collection of many years of work.  In less than three years of existence, this writing page has received nearly 15,000 hits from countries all around the world, the highest from the United States, Russia, Germany, Latvia, Ukraine, France, Malaysia, India, the United Kingdom, and China.  Dr. Woods has written these works in English, French, Hebrew, and has translated two poems into Arabic. She is currently sending two manuscripts from these works to publishers for consideration: 

Reimagining the Queen (Short Stories): Fairy Tales, Love, and War Across the Divide, and 

Romancing the Queen (Plays).

Recent and current activities:                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

  • Forthcoming, Judicial Power and National Politics: Courts and Gender in the Religious-Secular Conflict in Israel.  Second Edition.  State University of New York Press.

  • "New Constituencies, Independent Judiciaries?"  an invited presentation to the Robbins Workshop on Implementing Religious Law in Contemporary Nation-States: Definitions and Challenges, Boalt Hall Law School, University of California, Berkeley, Friday, February 21, 2014. 

Israel is a case in which religious law has already been implemented as a partial institutional legacy of both the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate.  Israel is very much in keeping with its regional context of the Middle East in this institutional pattern.  The fault lines between religious and secular forces in Israel, thus, are suggestive of similar lines of tension or conflict that may emerge in other parts of the world upon implementing religious law.  In Israel, an unanticipated relationship of mutual overlapping interests emerged between the predominantly secular High Court of Justice, on the one hand, and the predominantly secular humanist women's movement, on the other hand.  These overlapping interests had not been present previously, but became apparent through movement litigation against the institutional powers of religious authorities entrenched in state law and practice.  This litigation empowered the judiciary by moving critical issues of national political contention to it, rather than other institutions. And, it allowed both the judiciary and the movement to curb religious power in certain cases where it could be argued that administrative law had been overstepped in significant ways.

  • "The Israeli Women's Movement and Israeli Legal Culture" paper presented to the Association for Jewish Studies, Sunday, December 15, 2013, Boston, MA.

The Israeli women's movement has changed Israeli legal culture in significant ways, contributing to a rights discourse where that used to be rare in the still predominantly social democratic state.  Focusing on a strategy of micro-level mobilizing, the movement has made significant institutional changes in the state.  It chose not to join the state, per se, in its efforts, preferring to retain its autonomy, particularly vis a vis its own agenda-setting.  The relative anonymity that went with this choice has been a source of frustration for activists, who would rather have their work known in the public arena.  But, I argue, that very anonymity has also been a source of strength for the movement; constituencies that might work against them have been largely unaware of the large changes they have been able to put in place through micro-level mobilizing with local police, municipal officials, and even the Rabbinical Courts in various parts of the country, including the Directorate General of the Rabbinical Courts in Jerusalem.  Through negotiations with the latter, they were able to put in place a new Shalom Court (a secular family court) in 1995; very few people in the Israeli public know of the women's movement involvement in these changes.  They were also involved in the passage of UN Resolution 1325.  The lack of publicity and relative anonymity that went with the choice not to join the state, per se, allowed the movement the freedom to work without the "blessing" of the state, but also without the scrutiny that goes with joining the state apparatus itself.

  • "The Arab Spring: Causes and Consequences" a talk presented to the Arab Cultural Association, University of Florida, Wednesday, October 30, 2013.

The Arab Spring, I argue, is a bottom-up movement aimed at changing the status quo of the institutional power of authoritarian leaders, who have dominated political and economic institutions in several states in the Middle East since those states were put in place by European powers after World War I.  Before 1919, most contemporary Middle Eastern states were provinces of the Ottoman Empire.  That is, they did not exist in their current forms.  The post-Mandatory powers put in place by European powers at this time have been the hardest hit by the Arab spring.  The type of institutional structures that European powers insisted upon as a condition of leaving the Middle East included a broad state bureaucracy, in each national case, with the power to coerce its population to follow its new rules.  This institutional pattern flew in the face of centuries of institutional legacy in the Middle East, which had been centered on diffuse rule with high degrees of communal autonomy, and local participation in their own governance.  The Arab Spring is an effort, in part, to demonstrate that authoritarianism is not a "cultural artifact" of the Middle East, but, to the contrary, goes against popular will.  This argument is drawn in part from work in process with my colleague, Dr. Haluk Karadağ.
  • Series editor, Gender in Jewish Studies, Academic Studies Press, Brighton, MA
  • National Screening Committee, Fulbright Foundation, national meeting, November 20, 2013, New York City:  Israel Committee for all Ph.D., M.A., B.A., and B.S. proposals for research in Israel
  • Academic Advisory Committee, Rothberg International School, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Reviewer, American Political Science Review
  • Program Director, UF in Jerusalem Summer 2014 Study Abroad Program
  • Member, Faculty Quality Assurance Committee, Distance Learning, University of Florida
  • Film Series Coordinator, "Politics Through Feature Film," Department of Political Science, University of Florida
  • Member, Harn Museum Advisory Committee for the exhibit:  Full Disclosure: Images of War in the 21st Century, scheduled to open February through July, 2016, at the Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida
  • Reviewer, UF International Center summer study abroad scholarships, University of Florida
  • Chair, Curriculum Committee, Department of Political Science, University of Florida

Selected interviews:

On the death of Bin Laden, February 5, 2011, WUFT-FM:

On US troops leaving Iraq, and on Libya, October 21, 2011, WUFT-FM:

The stepping down of Mubarak, Arab Spring in Egypt, February 11, 2011, WUFT-FM:

The Arab Spring in Egypt, February 1, 2011WCJB-TV:


Photo of Robinson's Arch, Jerusalem, Copyright (c) 1995 by Patricia J. Woods



Judicial Power and National Politics
Courts and Gender in the Religious-Secular Conflict in Israel

By Patricia J. Woods

"This well-written book makes an important contribution by pushing the analysis of the controversies surrounding judicial intervention/activism to take ideas seriously. It provides a very persuasive account of Israel's High Court of Justice's involvement in religious issues and the key role of the judicial community in precipitating that involvement. At the same time, Woods attends to the roles of institutional factors and social movements in facilitating the controversial rights actions/decisions of the HCJ. This book is a must read for scholars of law and politics."  -- Austin Sarat, Amherst College


"The author's notion of an extended judicial community of judges, academic lawyers, and cause lawyers is a major move forward in the 'new institutionalism' in the study of law and courts."  -- Martin Shapiro, Boalt Law School, University of California at Berkeley


“Her study of Israeli judicial politics is shrewd, sophisticated, culturally sensitive, and historically grounded … Judicial Power and National Politics is a welcome addition to the scholarship on comparative judicial politics, and Patricia Woods is a welcome new voice in the field … The impact of her work will cut across subfields and enrich the political science discipline.” — Judith A. Baer, Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University, for The Law and Politics Book Review


Uses the case of Israel to examine the circumstances that lead national courts to engage heated political issues.


Publisher Summary:

Patricia J. Woods examines a controversial issue in the politics of many countries around the world: the increasing role that courts and justices have played in deeply charged political battles. Through an extensive case study of the religious-secular conflict in Israel, she argues that the most important determining factor explaining when, why, and how national courts enter into the world of divisive politics is found in the intellectual or judicial communities with whom justices live, work, and think about the law on a daily basis. The interaction among members of this community, Woods maintains, is an organic, sociological process of intellectual exchange.  Over time, it culminates in new legal norms.  These legal norms may, through court cases, become binding legal principles. Given the right conditions -- electoral democracy, basic judicial independence, and some institutional constraints -- courts may use these new legal norms as the basis for a jurisprudence that justifies hearing controversial cases and allows for creative answers to major issues of national political contention.


Available now from State University of New York Press.



Reviews of my book:
In the Law and Politics Book Review, Law and Courts section of the American Political Science Association
In the journal,Comparative Political Studies
In the journal, Israel Studies Forum, Association for Israel Studies

Jerusalem 1995 Copyright (c) 1995 by Patricia J. Woods

The Dome of the Rock from the Muslim Quarter, Jerusalem
Photo Copyright  © 1995 by Patricia J. Woods



Images of Jerusalem
(Below)  All photos Copyright (c) by Patricia J. Woods.

Jerusalem, Old City, Area of Robinson's Arch, Copyright (c) 1995 by Patricia J. Woods           Jerusalem Copyright (c) 1999 by Patricia J. Woods

 Jerusalem, Old City, Muslim Quarter from the Austrian Hospice, Copyright (c) 1997 by Patricia J. Woods

"Haifa: Through the Window"
Copyright (c) 2010 by Patricia J. Woods

Haifa Through the Window Copyright by Patricia J. Woods 2010        Haifa Through the Window Copyright by Patricia J. Woods 2010

Haifa Through the Window Copyright 2010 by Patricia J. Woods        Haifa Through the Window Coyright 2010 by Patricia J. Woods

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