Academic content

Academic content

Political theory: The modern history and current conditions in Palestine/Israel pose special challenges to political theory. A cluster of concepts, whose pertinence for political theory cannot be overestimated, is deeply unsettled by any attempt to analyze the politics of the region. This includes
• Sovereignty: Is Israel the sovereign in the occupied territories? Are Gaza and the Palestinian Authority sovereign? How does sovereignty drive and shape national politics? (Cocks 2014)
• Colonialism: is Zionism a colonial movement? Is Israel a colonial state? (Vercini 2013)
• Regime: Can Israel be described as a democracy or as an Apartheid state? (Jamal 2009, Ghanem 2009)?
• Military occupation: How does it function for so long? (Azoulay and Ophir 2012) Can it still be considered “occupation”? (Gordon 2012)
This partial list of conceptual questions is embedded in the challenges posed by complex questions of history, historicization, and transformations related to the legacy of European colonialism, the forefront of American imperialism, the holocaust and its memory, the Nakba, and the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians. The summer school will present this uniquely ambiguous constellation and try to situate it in a global theoretical context.

Nationalism and Colonialism: Many debates erupted in recent decades about settler-colonial movements in various geopolitical contexts and their relation to nationalism and liberal democracy (Wolfe, 2006); such discussions have begun to challenge traditional categorization. The debates are even more relevant in the post-colonial age (Mamdani 1998). Zionism as case study of this debate is highly polarized between those who see it as a colonial project with a clear plan to “cleanse” Palestine of its indigenous inhabitants (Sayegh, 2012), and those who see it as a national revival project that “went wrong” with the occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967 (Yakobson and Rubinstein, 2009). This debate suggests that a more nuanced analysis of Zionism as a changing historical project is required to rearticulate the underlying questions and concepts. Following Yiftachel (2006), the summer school will study the current political formation, and the future risks and potentialities of this unique structure that fluctuates between the two approaches.

Political Geography: Current scholarship on Palestine/Israel roughly divides into four logics. The oldest approach dwells on border studies. It encourages distinct and stable national entities and sees the state of Israel as an unquestioned fact, seeking ways to draw viable borders in Palestine/Israel (e.g. Newman 2010). The second current draws on colonial studies. It does not consider Israel with its 1948 borders as a natural and unproblematic entity; instead, this approach emphasizes the continuity between 1948 and 1967 in terms of Zionist land grabs, separation, and expansion (e.g. Yiftachel 2006; Falah 2005). The third logic relies on a Foucauldian study of the practices applied to micro-spaces: checkpoints, violence, population control, and surveillance. It is criticized for focusing on the OT (implicitly naturalizing Israel in its1948 borders) and on apparatuses of power, downplaying Palestinians and their agency (Amir 2011; Handel 2014). The last approach, applied mainly by Palestinian and international scholars, reacts against this by emphasizing ethnographies of everyday life, resistance, and agency. Yet, the emphasis on ethnography sometimes limits its ability to draw a wider picture (Makdisi 2010; Hammami 2010). The summer school will focus on the various approaches’ visions of solutions and their underlying ideologies.

Culture: The logic of separation, prevalent throughout Palestine/Israel, applies to culture as well. Most Israeli Jews are hardly interested in Arabic or Palestinian art and literature. Palestinians in the OT, whose physical access to Israel has been constantly narrowed, have decreasing knowledge of Israeli society and culture. Yet underneath this rift, there is a structure of deep interdependence between the two political and discursive communities, expressed in language (Levy 2014), literary production (Hochberg 2007), and artistic formation (Ben Zvi 2006). This, however, should not be taken as mutual impact based on equal co-existence, but as hierarchal and convoluted, yet valid relationship (Laïdi-Haieh 2007). The summer school will explore the contradicting modes of interdependence between Jewish Israeli and Palestinian cultural activity, and study how they reflect and constitute imaginary, textual, or speculative forms of political existence in contemporary Israel/Palestine. We will consider some rare cultural collaborations (e.g. Danon and Eilat 2009), but mostly inquire into the ways in which separation forces each culture to create, through processes of projection and disavowal, the figure of the enemy, the concept of struggle, and the image of a future.

Gender: Like in many areas of conflict, Palestine/Israel gender research follows two key threads. One is the construction of gender identities in hyper-militarized societies (e.g. Sasson-Levi 2006), and the other is the role of women in conflict zones. But whereas in other geopolitical contexts the latter focus relates mostly to women as victims of violence, the local configuration leads to a focus on women’s activism for political change (e.g. Abdo 1991). This portrays women as equal political players, rather than passive objects of politics, but the overwhelming focus on women’s peace activism (e.g. Issachar 2003) confines women to a narrow, traditional political role. The summer school will follow this thread, and reflect on it as a symptom of the shrinking political horizon and of neo liberal ideals of equality.
Activism: The contemporary academic study of Palestine/Israel activism is dominated by three themes: Palestinian-Israeli joint activism (e.g. Svirsky 2012), nonviolence (grassroot demonstrations and BDS, e.g. Hallward and Norman 2011) and intersections of gender and activism (e.g. Suleiman 2011). Research is often biased by a view from the west, imposing the normative language of the traditions derived from Gandhi and M.L. King Jr. where this discourse is not always relevant, and celebrating the undermining of national divisions. This focus is criticized by activists who suggest that joint activism, despite its best intentions, sometimes maintain hierarchies of privilege at the expense of allowing marginalized groups to construct autonomous spaces of resistance (Alsaafin 2012). The paradigm shifts from co-existence (peace building based on a supposed symmetry between the two sides) to co-resistance (Palestinian led cooperation with Israelis in direct actions) offers only a partial solution. Moreover, the above focus often neglects the continuity between armed resistance, nonviolent resistance, and daily life, as well as internal ethnic, religious, and cultural divisions inside the Palestinian and Israeli “national units.” The summer school will try to unpack this debate and encourage a critical reflection on its underlying assumptions.

Alsaafin, Linah. 2012. “How obsession with ‘nonviolence’ harms the Palestinian cause”. The Electronic Intifada, July 10 2012.
Amir, Merav. 2011. On the Border of Indeterminacy: The Separation Wall in East Jerusalem. Geopolitics, 16(4), 768-792.
Azoulay, Ariella and Adi Ophir. 2012. The One State Condition: Occupation and Democracy in Israel/Palestine. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Ben Zvi, Tal (ed). 2006. Biographies: Six Solo Exhibitions at Hagar Art Gallery, Jaffa. Tel Aviv: Hagar Association, 2006.
Cocks, Joan. 2014. On Sovereignty and other Political Delusions. London: Bloomsbury.
Danon, Eyal and Galit Eilat. 2009. Liminal Spaces catalog.
Falah, G. W. 2005. The geopolitics of ‘Enclavisation’and the demise of a two-state Solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Third World Quarterly, 26(8), 1341-1372.
Ghanem, As’ad. 2009. “Democratizing ‘Ethnic State’: The Democratization Process in Divided Societies – With a Special Reference to Israel”. Constellations 16(3):462-475.
Gordon, Neve. 2012. Israel’s Occupation: Sovereignty, Discipline, and Control. Berkeley: California University Press.
Hallward, Maia Carter and Julie M. Norman (eds.). 2011. Nonviolent Resistance in the Second Intifada: Activism and Advocacy. London: Palgrave Mamillan.
Hammami, R. 2010. Qalandiya: Jerusalem’s tora bora and the frontiers of global inequality. Jerusalem Quarterly, 41, 29-51.
Handel, A. 2014. Gated/gating community: the settlement complex in the West Bank. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 39(4), 504-517.
Hochberg, Gil. 2007. In Spite of Partition: Jews, Arabs, and the Limits of Separatist Imagination. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Jamal, Amal. 2009. “The Contradictions of State-Minority Relations in Israel: The Search for Clarifications”. Constellations 16(3):493-508.
Laïdi-Haieh, Adila. 2007. “In the mirror of the occupier: Palestinian art through Israeli Eyes”. Journal of Palestine Studies 36(4):65-72
Levy, Lital. 2014. Poetic Trespass: Writing between Hebrew and Arabic in Israel/Palestine. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Makdisi, S. 2010. Palestine inside out: An everyday occupation. WW Norton & Company.
Mamdani, Mahmood. 1998. "When Does a Settler Become a Native? Reflections of the Colonial Roots of Citizenship in Equatorial and South Africa", Inaugural A.C. Jordan Professor of African Studies Lecture, University of Cape Town, May 13 1998.
Newman, D. 2010. Contemporary Geopolitics of Israel-Palestine: Conflict Resolution and the Construction of Knowledge. Eurasian Geography and Economics, 51(6), 687-693.
Suleiman, Camelia. 2011. Language and Identity in the Israel-Palestine conflict. London: I.B. Tauris
Sayegh, Fayez . 2012. "Zionist Colonialism in Palestine" Settler Colonial Studies 2(1): 206-225.
Svirsky, Marcelo. 2012. Arab-Jewish Activism in Israel-Palestine. Fernham: Ashgate.
Veracini, Lorenzo. 2013. “The Other Shift: Settler Colonialism, Israel, and the Occupation”, Journal of Palestine Studies 42(2):26-42
Wolf, Patrick. 2006. “Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native”, Journal of Genocide Research 8(4):387-409.
Yakobson, Alexander and Amnon Rubinstein (2009). Israel and the family of nations: the Jewish nation-state and human rights. New York: Routledge.
Yiftachel, Oren. 2006. Ethnocracy: Land and identity politics in Israel/Palestine. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press

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