Framing Absence: Visuals of the Wall and the Vanishing Landscapes in Palestine
Hatoum, Nayrouz Abu
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This dissertation explores peoples relationship to the landscapes of material, abstract, and visual borders in the context of Palestine-Israel. Since 2002, the construction of the Israeli separation Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has significantly transformed the way locals, particularly on the Palestinian side of the Wall see and articulate their relation to the landscape. Already living in a state of military occupation through restriction of movement, limited access to land and urban expansion on occupied territory, the Wall has considerably shifted Palestinians relationships to the landscape. To them the landscape has become a visual field on which power dynamics and political structures are embodied and expressed. Moreover, for many Palestinians the Israeli construction of the Wall is visible evidence of the on-going process of destruction of the Palestinian landscape. But what is the view of Palestinians and Israelis living on the Israeli side of the Wall and those living in Palestine but in close proximity to the Wall? What is their engagement with the Wall? To answer these questions, this dissertation draws on more than 12 months of ethnographic research in Israel and Palestine that involved extended interviews with Palestinian and Israeli photographers and activists in Israel, as well as Palestinians whose lives were affected by the Walls construction in proximity to their homes and for whom the Wall route brought them into direct confrontation with the Israeli military. This research also examined representations of the Wall in different visual projects. From a theoretical perspective, this dissertation asks how do visual fields facilitate the structuring of national imaginaries and what sights and future visions are offered by different readings of the landscape? To answer these questions, I employ anthropological theories of violence, borders and the visual, and propose the concept of landscapocide, a violent visual process through which landscapes are framed, and made to be seen and unseen. Through landscapocide and other anthropologically grounded theories and concepts I offer a new reading of the ways in which people in bordered contexts give meaning to what they see.