Title: Spatial Relationality: Urban Space and Ethnic Relations in Jewish-Arab Mixed Towns, 1948-2004
Name: Daniel Monterescu
Assistant Professor
Central European University
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Nador U. 9, 1051 Budapest, Hungary
Year: 2003
Type: Dissertation Fellowship

This dissertation examines how urban space, Jewish-Arab sociality and local/national identities have been both represented and produced in ethnically mixed cities since the establishment of the state of Israel until the present. Against the background of a century-long conflict between the Jewish and Palestinian national movements, this research studies the relations between Jewish and Palestinian "projects of nativization" and community building efforts in a politically and culturally contested urban setting. While most scholars conceptualize both Palestinian and Jewish national collective identities as separate and antagonistic projects--indeed as independent ideologies of autochthony defined only by the negation and exclusion of the other--I focus instead on the dialectic of mutual determination between these communities often rendered invisible in Palestinian-Israeli studies. Within a critique of what Ulrich Beck has termed "methodological nationalism," I deconstruct this uni-dimensional segregation/integration paradigm using an ethnographic site that is itself considered from a nationalistic perspective to be a historical and political anomaly. Thus, the study posits mixed towns as a challenge to the hegemonic ethno-nationalist guiding principles of the Israeli state, which ultimately fails to maintain homogeneous, segregated and ethnically stable spaces. This failure, I argue, results in the parallel existence of heteronymous spaces in these cities--operating through multiple, often contradictory logics of space, class, nation and governance. Analyzed relationally, these spaces produce a peculiar form of quotidian social relations between Arabs and Jews as well as new forms of local identities, political coalitions and hybrid cultures that challenge both Palestinian and Jewish nationalisms.

Focusing on cities like Jaffa, Haifa, Acre, Lydda and Ramla, I historicize the particular place they have occupied in the Israeli and Palestinian popular, political and sociological imagination. A bi-national borderland in which Arabs and Jews live together, these cities bring to the fore, on the one hand, the paradox of Palestinian citizens in a fundamentally Jewish state, while simultaneously suggesting, by the very spatial and social realization of "mixed-ness," the potential imaginary of its solution. Through ethnographic and historical research centered in Jaffa this project investigates the contradictory process of "inter-permeation" between the two populations taking place in mixed towns. On the one hand, the accelerated gentrification process brings affluent Jews into poor mixed neighborhoods, thus provoking violent dispute and bitter frustration among lower-class Arab and some veteran Jewish inhabitants. Simultaneously, however, as many lower-class Jewish families move out of mixed towns, growing numbers of mixed-income Palestinians purchase apartments in the now cheaper and formerly "Jewish" neighborhoods. Analyzing life stories, urban "riots," planning policies and the history of community organizing, I show how Jewish and Palestinian Jaffans, implicated in economic, social and cultural relations of interdependence within the larger context of Israeli society and state, strive to define their respective collective identity and communal distinction. These latter processes, as well as their ensuing complex bi-national form of sociality and spatiality, serve as a lens through which the research engages a wider set of questions in urban anthropology regarding ethnicity, citizenship, and identity-making as embedded in practices of "making place."

Bibliography: Monterescu, Daniel and Rabinowitz, Dan, eds. Mixed Towns, Trapped Communities: Historical Narratives, Spatial Dynamics, Gender Relations and Cultural Encounters in Palestinian Israeli Towns. London: Ashgate, 2007.