Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Spaces of Waiting: Politics of Precarious Recognition in the Occupied West Bank

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Spaces of Waiting: Politics of Precarious Recognition in the Occupied West Bank

Article excerpt

Introduction

The words 'West Bank' and 'occupation' encompass strong spatial connotations: the (separation) wall, checkpoints, complex zonings one always feels uncanny uncertainty about, the archipelago of enclaves, the shrinking map of West Bank. It is hardly a surprise that raising the idea of 'waiting' in the context of occupied West Bank also travels quite quickly along similar pathways: queues at checkpoints, Palestinian workers corralled into corridors like cattle, daily detours caused by roadblocks, moving checkpoints, traffic jams--all kinds of movements controlled by all kinds of visible borders. Yet, waiting is never merely about obstructed movement entwined around spatial obstacles and border conditions of different kinds; it is also temporal, a delay, postponement, or a restraint, preventing things to come about. Contributions posing the question of government in relation to waiting have been quite keen to reckon this connection between space, time and mobility, as spatial obstacles of movement--walls, blocks, checkpoints, borders--intrinsically produce temporal delays and waiting--the queues, the lines of cars, and the livestock alleys of humiliated Palestinian bodies (see Bissell, 2007; Kotef, 2015; Tawil-Souri, 2011; Wick, 2011). The power of waiting--the force hidden within the ability to 'steal time' (Peteet, 2008)--however, has been under less scrutiny, perhaps as it often remains quite self-evident that waiting and obstacles of movement take away the time one possesses as his/her own (see, Secor, 2007: 39-41).

In this paper, I turn this problematique around by asking how and through what techniques and configurations waiting itself can operate as a way of governing the occupied spaces and bodies. In particular, I show how it is the delay itself, when used as a settler colonial strategy of government, which produces control through what I call the precarious 'spaces of waiting'. With 'spaces of waiting' I do not refer to a difference in experiencing prolonged and 'chronic waiting' (Jeffrey, 2008), but rather to a settler colonial modality and techniques of governing occupied spaces and populations. In fact, if we look at the techniques the state of Israel uses to confiscate land, demolish homes, and plan land use in the West Bank, the highly precarious Area C in particular, this configuration of government emerges as a steady part of how the settler colonial rule is maintained and expanded in practice. Such government, I argue, operates through the performances of state apparatuses, which constantly delay and postpone actions that would diminish the precarious conditions among Palestinian population, especially among those suffering the corollaries of the close proximity of Israeli settlements. These spaces of suspension operate as sites of administrative and juridico-political performances, which govern by stalling the implementation of Palestinian rights, so creating spaces that theatrically keep the state apparatuses operative in a manner seemingly peculiar to liberal states (cf. Khalili, 2013; Ram, 2013, 2015; Shalhoub-Kevorkian, 2015; Yiftachel, 1998). Here, the ones governed are not subsumed under the disciplinary and surveillance techniques (Weizman, 2007), nor turned into passive targets of oppressive powers (Parsons and Salter, 2008). Rather, their practices of resistance are recognized and directed to maintain the theaters of recognition, which by preserving the precarious position of the ones governed, normalize, maintain and strengthen the discriminatory structures of the settler colonial rule.

To explicate the techniques of this way of governing, I start the paper by closely looking at four instances (in two sites), where the legal and political 'right to claim rights' is recognized, but its actualization delayed, prolonged or denied. Although in many cases different Israeli apparatuses--military, legal and administrative--operate by supporting one another, in other instances the decision of one body (Israeli High Court of Justice, for instance) is prevented to actualize by the acts of other governing bodies (by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) or Israeli Civil Administration (ICA), for instance). …

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