Disputation för filosofie doktorsexamen i geografi med kulturgeografisk inriktning vid Samhällsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Stockholms universitet, där Johanna Adolfsson framlägger sin avhandling ”A new storm over the Naqab: The temporality of space in Israeli settler colonialism”.

Plats: Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Frescati, Stockholm.
Tid: Kl. 10.00 den 27 januari 2023.

Opponent: Professor Irus Braverman, School of Law, University at Buffalo.

Huvudhandledare: Professor Anders Wästfelt, Kulturgeografiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet. Handledare: Universitetslektor Ulf Jansson, Kulturgeografiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet.

Ordförande vid disputationen: Professor Dominic Power, Kulturgeografiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet.

Betygsnämndens ledamöter: Professor Michael Gentile, Institutt for sosiologi og samfunnsgeografi, Universitetet i Oslo, docent Sandra Wall-Reinius, Institutionen för ekonomi, geografi, juridik och turism, Mittuniversitetet, och professor Ulf Mörkenstam, Statsvetenskapliga institutionen, Stockholms universitet. Suppleant: Docent Danielle Drozdzewski, Kulturgeografiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet.

Abstract: 

How can a posthumanist conceptualization of landscape, one that embraces temporality and practice, help us to better understand contemporary settler colonialism? This thesis explores this proposition through its analyses of the desire of the Israeli state to ‘settle’ the Naqab. The Naqab, an area located in the south of modern-day Israel and within its borders, is continuously narrated as under threat of being lost to the Palestinian Bedouins. In contrast to the breadth of scholarly attention given to the occupied Palestinian Territories, there is a relative paucity of studies focusing on the Naqab and on the Palestinian citizens of Israel living therein. Inspired by the concept of taskscape and, more broadly, by a posthumanist political ecology approach, in this thesis I seek to remedy the determinist undertones quite often found in settler colonial studies.

The thesis’ empirical data draw from qualitative methods and field research in the Naqab, undertaken during multiple field visits between the 2018 and 2021. The thesis comprises a comprehensive summary (kappa) and three research papers. In Paper 1, I show how a schism between the Jewish National Fund and the civil society green movement surfaced amid land conflicts between the state and Bedouin villagers east of Beersheva. I argue that this schism offers insights into how nature is negotiated in relation to environmentalism and Zionist ideology.  Further, I discuss how these negotiations point to an emerging new self-image of a post-settlement state that has abandoned pioneering, and replaced it with a planted forest (and natural) landscape as an emblem for Zionist nature. In Paper 2, I focus my attention on a network of Jewish villages in the Naqab. Based on a discourse analysis of YouTube videos produced by two Zionist organizations, I show how the narrative of Jewish relocation to the Naqab encompasses a modern re-enactment of the pioneering ideal, one mediated by a new neoliberal ethos of Israel as a ‘start-up nation’ and the Naqab as a new Israeli tech-hub. Finally, in Paper 3, I trace the cultural and political context of forest grazing in the Naqab. I argue that while the state uses afforestation as a proxy for territorialization, the irony is that it is the Bedouins who are largely responsible for everyday management of these forest areas, as grazing is a cost-effective method for keeping shrubs and other undergrowth low. I argue that in trying to accommodate grazing in the forest, policy makers struggle to juggle Bedouin land claims via continuous use and cultural connection to the land. Throughout the papers I affirm the performance of Israeli settler colonialism through the making of the natural environment. I assert that the tendency towards forest and grazing regulation, also articulated in planning policy, represents a move beyond the ‘era of pioneering’ towards a more formal type of society.  I conclude by contending that the multiple spaces and temporalities presented in the paper’s case studies are indicative of contradictory narratives in the portrayal of the Naqab is and thus assemble as a necessity of the settlement ambition.

Nyckelord: Settler colonial studies, posthumanism, political ecology, transhumance, frontier, Negev/Naqab, Israel/Palestine.