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Infrastructural Occupations: Waste and Electricity in Palestine.

By: | posted on: Feb 24, 2020

Date(s) - 02/24/2020
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

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Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU


Contact Person:

(212) 998-8877
Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU and NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study


Join us for a Panel discussion on “Infrastructural Occupations: Waste and Electricity in Palestine.” In this talk, Fredrik Meiton will discuss his book Electrical Palestine: Capital and Technology from Empire to Nation and Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins will talk about her book Waste Siege: The Life of Infrastructure in Palestine with discussants Mohammed Rafi Arefin and Nasser Abourahme.

Book 01: Electrical Palestine: Capital and Technology from Empire to Nation: Like electricity, political power travels through physical materials whose properties govern its flow. Electrical Palestine charts the construction of Palestine’s electric grid in the interwar period and its implication in the area’s rapid and uneven development. It does so in an effort to rethink both the origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict and the interplay of politics, capital, and technology more broadly. The study follows the coevolution of the power system and Zionist state building efforts in Palestine on the conceptual and material level. Conceptually, the design and construction of the system shaped Palestine as a precisely bounded entity with a distinct political, social, and economic character. Materially, the borders of the mandate were mapped onto the power system and structured an ethno-national division of capital, land, and labor. In 1948, these coevolving forces ultimately carried over into Jewish statehood and Palestinian statelessness.

Fredrik Meiton is a historian of the modern Middle East. He studies the intersection of politics, science and the environment, especially in the context of colonial development. He teaches courses in global and Middle Eastern history, often with a focus on science, technology, energy and the environment.

Book 02: Waste Siege: The Life of Infrastructure in Palestine: This talk offers an analysis unusual in the study of Palestine: it begins with the environmental, infrastructural, and aesthetic context in which Palestinians forge their lives, naming that context a “waste siege.” Sophia argues that to speak of waste siege is to describe a series of conditions, from smelling wastes to negotiating military infrastructures, from bio-political forms of colonial rule to experiences of governmental abandonment, from obvious targets of resistance to confusion over responsibility for the burdensome objects of daily life. She focuses on waste as an experience of everyday life that is continuous with, but not a result only of, occupation. Tracing Palestinians’ experiences of wastes over the past decade, and their improvisations for mitigating the effects of this siege, Sophia considers how multiple authorities governing the West Bank—including municipalities, the Palestinian Authority, international aid organizations, and Israel—rule by waste siege, whether intentionally or not. The talk depicts waste’s constant returns. It thus challenges both common formulations of waste as “matter out of place” and as the ontological opposite of the environment, by suggesting instead that waste siege be understood as an ecology of “matter with no place to go.” Waste siege thus not only describes a stateless Palestine, but also becomes a metaphor for our besieged planet.

Professor Stamatopoulou-Robbins is an anthropologist whose research interests include infrastructure, waste, environmentalism, climate change, colonialism and postcoloniality, austerity, platform capitalism and property.

Mohammed Rafi Arefin is an Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow at NYU Gallatin. He is an urban geographer whose research combines insights from urban geography, political economy, and social theory to study the politics of waste and sanitation.

Nasser Abourahme works between urban geography, political theory, and postcolonial studies. His current work moves across the social sciences and the humanities to focus on issues of borders and encampment as they come up against questions of aesthetics and textuality.

This event is free and open to public.

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