Palestinian Homes: Infrastructures Of Intimacy And The Politics Of Representation



Part of Israel’s settler colonial practices is the systematic destruction of home. Home embodies many different ideas: a nation or a person, home can be a picture, home can be a memory. Yet, home is also the actual material infrastructure people live in and around. As sites of living, homes are infrastructures of intimacy. They do the work of nurturing, controlling, sanctioning, and negotiating through cooperation and disagreement. They reproduce the social relations that are embodied in the modern distinction between the public and private spheres. When a home is demolished, it has implications that reverberate across Palestinian society. It implies a destruction of a place where people sleep, eat, have conversations, argue and make love. The targeting of Palestinian homes is a war on being together in Palestine.

How does Israel lay claims on Palestinian homes? Part of the material practices is the very discourse Israel holds on homes. In the context of evictions and demolitions by Israel, homes are discursively constructed with direct consequences on Palestinian subjectivity. Knowledge about Palestinian homes is produced as either a threat to the Israeli state, or as a site of destruction and disaster. Such narratives often render invisible the realities of settler colonialism and its effects on Palestinian everyday life. Seeking to challenge and overcome knowledge production on Palestinian subjectivities beyond the fetishization of war, I want to think of ways to weave together theorizations on representation and the concept of “infrastructures of intimacy” in an effort to provide alternative ways of thinking, reading, watching and speaking of Palestinian subjectivity.

Amrov Funambulist (6)
In the house of the author’s family in Doura, Hebron/Al Khaleel. / All photographs by Sabrien Amrov (2017).

The infrastructural lens is often used to showcase the way hard politics and state violence creep into people’s lives: surveillance systems, segregated roads, public infrastructures. But I want to push the idea that an infrastructural lens allows us to think about the various aspects in people’s lives that become blurred because we get too caught up in popularized frameworks like the one set by the notion of human rights. In the Israeli settler colonial context, we often find an interest in reporting the ways in which settler colonialism steals land, territory, histories, and abuses indigenous people’s rights. These are all true and important. But more is at play. Just like feminist geographers tells us to pay attention to attachment and to respect that the personal is political, intimacy shows us how power travels well beyond the spaces we think of. Infrastructure of intimacy allows us to see what gets taken away in these analyses. I think it is important to reinstate the relations of kindship that I argue are under threat in the Palestinian context. I share Ara Wilson’s enthusiasm that intimacy as analytic rubric makes visible the ways in which political conditions have profound effects on human relationships (The Intimate Economies of Bangkok: Tomboys, Tycoons, and Avon Ladies in The Global City, 2004). How receiving a notice of home demolition affects people’s psychology. How harassment in their homes has made some men and women incapable of being intimate with their significant other. How rebuilding your home every time it gets demolished can drive you mad. How being asked to demolish the home you built has strong affective consequences on how people continue to live their lives.