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Accepted paper:

Ethiopian-Israeli "Bordering" in a Mixed Jewish-Arab City


Joel Hart (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper reflects on the subjective performance and reproduction of urban borders. The concept of "bordering" is explored through an ethnographic account of the experiences and navigations of an Ethiopian-Israeli community in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Jaffa, Israel/Palestine.

Paper long abstract:

Urban borders have been explored within critical urban studies and political geography through explorations of topographical shifts in land use, municipal zoning, boundary-signing, and new architectural constructions. Boundary-making by groups within urban settings has been prominent in urban anthropology and the anthropology of race and ethnicity. Yet, a conceptual bridge exists between these approaches and more broadly between "top-down" territorial approaches and "below-up" relational approaches to borders in the city. I argue that the urban ethnographer is in prime position to attend to this by observing the practice of "bordering," the movement of actors according to shifting spatial organisations and their symbolic outputs. Responding to the drive towards processual anthropology and sociology, this paper develops the notion of "bordering" as a part of socio-cultural subjectivity. Specifically, it explore how borders are materially and socially produced in the experiences and navigations of an Ethiopian-Israeli community in Jaffa, a mixed Jewish-Arab city in Israel/Palestine. Crucially, this production is guided by a conception of the everyday as a convergence of both urban regimes and urban modalities. Ethiopian-Jewish community formations are navigated through forms of "bordering" that both re-articulate the physical borders of the neighbourhood, whilst creating new, dynamic borders in the neighbourhood. As bordering is the default modality in a society hyper-aware of ethnonational and ethnic distinctions, borders are paradoxically both the source of urban avoidance and segregation, and of the cultivation of distinctive urban subjectivities marking cultural and political reinvention.

panel U04
Urban borderlands at the crossroads of anthropology and geography: spatiality, perceptions and social reproduction in a multiscalar perspective