In the summer of 2003, I spent several weeks in Beit Sahour, the town in which I’ve carried out fieldwork since the late 1980s, observing—amongst other things—the rapacious hunger with which Israel’s ‘Anti-Terrorist Fence’ (more commonly known as ‘the Wall’) consumed Palestinian lands and infrastructure, biting off roads, wells, housing projects, community centers, and other supports of Palestinian life on the West Bank.1 On the northern border of Beit Sahour the Wall was for the most part a bulldozed strip of between 20 and 40 meters in width, containing two 3-meter barbed-wire-topped fences, a ditch, another fence with electronic movement sensors, two raked sand ‘trace strips,’ and a paved patrol road. It meandered through the countryside in what appeared to be an aimless and extravagant manner (extravagant insofar as it costs on average $2,270,000 per kilometer), until I recognized that it ran right along the edge of the inhabited sectors of Beit Sahour and neighboring Bethlehem and Beit Jala, gathering behind it nearly all of the vineyards, the olive groves, the orchards, and other agricultural lands of the local people (according to the Applied Research Institute—Jerusalem walling in the Bethlehem district has resulted in the alienation of 70 square kilometers of the total 608 square kilometers that make up the district).
Sovereign exception or wild sovereignty?
It seems vital, in the face of escalating Israeli expansionism in the Palestinian Territories and obstructionism in the "Peace Process," to theorize the cultural foundations of a process of containment and dispossession of Palestinians that can no longer convincingly be seen as mere strategy. Symptomatic of the Israeli state program is the "wall" (a.k.a., "the Security Fence" or the "Apartheid Wall") and its radical encroachment into territory designated as the grounds of a future Palestinian state. The following essay attempts an anthropological analysis of the concept of "border" in contemporary Israeli thought and practice, and, in so doing, assesses the impact of a limitless sovereignty on both an encompassed minority population and on international relations more generally.
Glenn Bowman, Charles W. Brown, Gerard Corsane, Ian Fairweather, Allen Feldman, Amiria Henare, Caroline Ifeka, Bruce Kapferer, Anne Krogstad, Sandra Langley, Yngve Lithman, Staffan Löfving, Leif Manger, Heidi Moksnes, Carolyn Nordstrom, Peter Probst, K. Ravi Raman, Jakob Rigi, Eleanor Rimoldi, and Christopher C. Taylor
Notes on Contributors