Palestinian Studies

2019 Workshop

Sabrien Amrov

PhD Candidate, University of Toronto

Palestinian Homes and the Systematic Targeting of Intimacy

In Jerusalem, the Israel Museum invites Israelis to “experience” Palestinian homes through a virtual installation. The artist behind the idea wants Israelis to have an “intimate encounter” with Palestinian homes. The rate at which Israel has demolished and evicted Palestinian homes hit an all-time high in 2017 . In other words, Israel targets Palestinian homes to expand its settler colonialist state, while inviting Israelis to virtually experience the interior of these very homes, manufacturing empathy in the name of “humanistic art.” This paper looks at how Israel deploys and targets intimacy via its simultaneous policy of eliminating Palestinian homes (as well as separating Palestinians from their homes) and building Israeli settlements through capitalist formation (modeled after the Fordist American suburbs). Drawing on the concept of infrastructure of intimacy, this paper dives into the specific ways Israel targets socialspatial entities while deploying and targeting intimacy to serve its settler colonial expansion. Ara Wilson has married the concept of intimacy and infrastructure to draw attention on the different ways material-symbolic assemblages are embedded in intimate social relations in fields of power. In this case, I want to reflect how intimacy is deployed as a means to expand, and at the same time manufacture, empathy . The paper first looks at what it means to target socialspatial life through intimacy and what impacts it has on Palestinian everyday life. An important reason to attend to intimacy in thinking about Palestinians’ homes is to stop us from romanticizing these spaces as merely further extensions of Palestinian resistance. Palestinian subjectivity is multitudinous and layered. For example, activists will often argue that Palestinians building homes after a demolition or on a plot marked by the Israeli government for demolition is an act of resistance. This may be part of the intentionality, but in many ways, Palestinians also build homes simply for the desire to have their own property, their own space, to live near their families, to grow their own. These type of socialspatial considerations are often lost in the sea of resistance discourse. A second reason to think through Palestinian homes specifically, and the targeting of Palestinian life by Israel more broadly, is to widen the lens in which we speak of Palestinian political subjectivity. That is, to acknowledge particular hegemonic frameworks around Palestine such as the human right discourse, resistance, and militarization literature fail to do justice in speaking for and about Palestine in a holistic method. Intimate relations involve places and home as a central place, while not the only one, to start speaking of Palestinians and their subjectivity in a more comprehensive fashion.

Sabrien Amrov is pursuing her PhD in Human Geography at the University of Toronto. She is a CGS-Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) doctoral fellow and a policy member for the Palestinian policy think tank, al-Shabaka. Her work examines how Arab migrants in Istanbul’s “Little Syria” produce intimate solidarity connections post–Arab Spring. The multitude of encounters—bodily and territorial inclusions and exclusions—taking place in cities reveal in unremarkable yet intimate ways the production of different scales of collective and individual political subjectivities.
In 2013, Sabrien earned her master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Ottawa, where her master’s thesis on the Security Sector Reform in the West Bank was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Her thesis investigated how security coordination between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority extends Israel’s matrix of control over Palestinian everyday life. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Funambulist, Society and Space, Middle East Monitor, Rabble, and TRT World.