isa International Sociological Association
isa home abstracts home abstracts form search list of abstracts
 

Abstracts of dissertations

Mapping Israel, Mapping Palestine: How Segregated Landscapes Shape Scientific Knowledge
 
Author
Bier, Jess
bier@fsw.eur.nl
United States

Supervisor
Sally Wyatt and Bas van Heur
Technology and Society Studies
Maastricht University
Netherlands

Year of completion 2014

language of dissertation English

Keywords
  • digital maps
  • geographic space
  • science and technology
  • Palestine and Israel
Areas of Research
  • Science and Technology
  • Social Movements, Collective Action and Social Change
  • Theory
Abstract
Mapping Israel, Mapping Palestine is an analysis of the ways that segregated landscapes have shaped the practice of cartography in Jerusalem and the West Bank since 1967. Extending work on how technology is socially constructed, it investigates the ways that knowledge is geographically produced. Technoscientific practices are situated in spatial contexts which are at once both social and material. This situated character influences the content of knowledge in ways that can be unpredictable. Therefore, it is necessary to reflexively engage with materiality in order to enable landscapes that allow for more diverse practices and forms of knowledge.

The complex geographies of Palestine and Israel provide central sites for the study of how landscapes shape the form, content, and circulation of knowledge. 1967 marks the beginning of the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian Territories, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip. With the notable exception of East Jerusalem, currently most of the occupied areas have been neither formally incorporated into the Israeli state, nor have they been allowed to form an independent sovereign nation. Instead, small pockets of Palestinian control have been carved out through a series of international negotiations aimed at clearly defining separate states for Palestinians and Israelis—negotiations which often take place over tables strewn with maps.

Yet even as maps are employed in attempts to end the Occupation, similar methods have been used to build intricate infrastructure networks for curtailing human movement within the Territories. These include the 8‐meter Wall which snakes through the West Bank, segregated sets of roads and buildings, as well as roving series of checkpoints and roadblocks, all designed with the purpose of con‐ fining Palestinians and separating them from Israelis. The planning, construction, and administration of such systems of control are made possible by the same Geo‐ graphic Information Science (GIS) mapmaking practices which are used in attempts to ameliorate the conflict. To understand how this is possible, it is necessary to explore the ways that such practices are differently incorporated throughout the very region which cartographers seek to map and reshape.

The centrality of maps to debates over the future of Palestine and Israel has only intensified since the advent of digital cartography has led to increasingly minute forms of surveillance and control. Contemporary cartography incorporates a range of practices in Jerusalem and the West Bank, from adaptations of decommissioned spy satellite images to a road map made by Palestinian students who tracked their own movements on their mobile phones. Intended to display objective facts, empirical maps often inspire extensive discussion. Participants in these discussions exhibit a variety of observational frames that cannot be divorced from their unequal positions and mobilities within the very terrains that they seek to portray. Mapping Israel, Mapping Palestine addresses these issues by presenting an analysis of the empirical maps and mapmaking practices which result when diverse cartographers travel to chart the same landscapes that so condition their movement. As such, it investigates the myriad ways that the segregated landscapes of the Israeli Occupation shape the conditions of possibility for knowledge about the Occupation and its effects.