Intimate invasions : gender, violence and the politics of belonging at the Jerusalem border

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2017-05

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While the violence of the Israeli/Palestinian context is often most visible in the spectacular moments of militarized struggles over land and power, this dissertation contends that ongoing violence operates through invasion of the mundane spaces of everyday life—native Palestinian’s sexualities, homes, families, bodies and the sacred—what I term intimate invasions. Based on 18 months of ethnographic research in occupied East Jerusalem before, during and in the immediate aftermath of the 2014 Israeli military invasion of the occupied Palestinian territories, my research documents intimate state violence as a primary means of political control. Intimate invasions, I argue, form part of a sexual economy of violence that energizes the Israeli state’s project of racial domination; this argument, in turn helps reveal how mundane, embodied forms of gender and sexualized violence are constitutive of settler colonial violence. The sexualized performativity of state power is often rendered elusive in its everyday manifestations, yet becomes hypervisible in a time of war, when the native female body is symbolically vested as a territory that should be violated, invaded and raped, and the male body as a threatening marker of sexual and gendered difference. Such discourses, and the military strategies that accompany them, are critical in the production of racial differences between Palestinian and Jew, structuring belonging or nonbelonging to the “Jewish nation”, and thus, disparate forms of social and political inclusion or exclusion. At the same time, Palestinian resistance in the post-Oslo era is unintelligible without a focus on the intimate. For Jerusalemites, who straddle the liminal space between citizen and “impossible subject” in the eyes of the Israeli state, and who have no recourse to political representation from the official guardians of the Palestinian national body, the intimate provides fertile grounds for contesting the social, political and racial exclusion faced in everyday life. In the intimate praxis of remaking home, maintaining familial and social bonds, and defending sacred space while being excluded, terrorized and relegated to a space of death, Jerusalemite Palestinians refashion political identities and forge a politics of belonging to the city.

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