The modern state is expected to provide its people with both safety and freedom. Driving and other kinds of road travel are key practices through which citizens – and subjects – sense and evaluate these qualities across many kinds of political regimes. For Palestinians, movement is a particular issue of concern, as they have for decades been living under Israel’s increasingly stringent system of closure. Israel makes no promises of providing safety or freedom to Palestinians in the West Bank, and yet, it does regulate Palestinian driving in many areas of the West Bank. This paper goes beyond most existing approaches to closure by looking ethnographically at the kinds of movement that occur under circumstances of constraint, and by examining not only the road habits of Palestinians in the West Bank, who are subjects of Israeli occupation, but also those of Palestinian citizens of Israel. I conclude that there are unexpected continuities between the experiences of space and Israeli sovereignty of Palestinians in Israel and in the West Bank.
Amahl Bishara is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Tufts University. She is the author of Back Stories: US News Production and Palestinian Politics (Stanford University Press, 2012)
Event co-sponsored by Middle Eastern Studies, Anthropology Program, Center for Civic Engagement, Human Rights Project