Accepted paper:

Tracing Bedouin Land Claims in the Naqab


Maya Avis (IHEID)

Paper short abstract:

The Naqab desert region in what is today southern Israel is littered with traces: abandoned wells and old stone houses, alongside freshly demolished Bedouin houses. How does the older traces' lack of status as relevant epistemic sources in court leads to the production of newer ruins?

Paper long abstract:

Bedouin activists in the Naqab, a desert region of what is today southern Israel, often take you to visit traces of various kinds. There are the older ones, skeletons of old stone houses, cemeteries, abandoned wells, as well as the rubble of freshly demolished Bedouin houses. These fragments of lifeworlds past and present, have a common denominator: Israeli state forces are responsible for their production as ruin. State agents turn Bedouin homes into rubble as an almost daily ritual in the Naqab. The state claims that nearly 35 villages, have been built illegally, despite residents claims that the villages are built on ancestral lands . There is a dutiful documentation of both kinds of traces. The old traces are documented as proof of what was, and as a claim for a particular version of what could be. These traces become social, political and even legal evidence of a past that was and might be again in the future. They are presented in courts as proof. The newer traces of what-was-once-my-home circulate on social media producing 'communities of affect', more ambiguous and ambivalent than the stable communities of Benedict Anderson (1983). How does the older traces' current lack of status as relevant epistemic source, lead to the production of the newer ruins? These newly manufactured traces are proof of the betrayal of these older traces, or rather of how power can invalidate (or validate) the evidentiary role of traces.

panel P142
Knowing Historical Traces, Eliciting Possible Futures