Practices of cultivation and control over land are deeply entangled matters in Israel-Palestine. By the turn of the twentieth century scientists had begun to systematically examine the cultivation practices of Arab farmers. Around the same time, the area was the scene of major land struggles as both Palestinian Arabs and Zionist groups sought to establish control over land. In the study of modern Historic Palestine, the cultivation practices of Palestinians and the contest for control over land have each constituted abundant but generally separate scholarly arenas. However, the relationship between the two furnishes a productive sphere of empirical and conceptual inquiry into the broad set of relations between forms of political community and claims to land. The entangled relation is illustrated by the legal distinction between cultivated and uncultivated land, which is an important basis for the reclassification and appropriation of land by Israel. Thus, I argue that the question of cultivation, both of land and of people, emerges as a central problematic in the imagination of Israel-Palestine as a geographical realm. This dissertation explores the question of cultivation through two central modes of inquiry. Cultivation in the first sense is understood to be an abstract concept that allows the state to enact technologies of rule. Cultivation in the second sense is a concrete practice of farmers who leverage the capacities of the land to affirm claims to territory. Drawing from literary and historical concepts as well as fieldwork, I show that modern colonialism requires the classification and adjudication of cultivation practices to justify land appropriation. I further illustrate that this reliance on cultivation paradoxically produces a site of contestation that at once engages and unsettles legal categories. This study requires rethinking the history of cultivation not as linear development but rather through a series of contingent moments or shadow spaces. These moments produce a narrative that summons traces of past events and folds them into the present. More generally, such an understanding of history and geography enables me to explore not only what was foreclosed at a given conjuncture, but also better understand the present condition.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2013. Major: Geography. Advisors: Vinay Gidwani, Bruce Braun. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 227 pages.
Shadow Spaces: Territory, Sovereignty, and the Question of Palestinian Cultivation.
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