My research focuses on the formal aspects of conflict that have been variously described as 'dynamics of contention,' 'strategic interaction,' and 'expression games' by combatants and defense intellectuals alike. Focusing on the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict, my work concentrates more specifically upon the history of a recursive politics of blame in the Middle East. I am particularly interested in the historical process whereby commonplace arguments about the intractability of conflict became commonplace to begin with; I also seek to analyze what the normalization of these explanations of conflict signal about the relation between a history of conflict and its perpetuation, war and epistemology. In so far as I treat the "mutually assessed mutual assessment" of political actors as a dramaturgical phenomenon to be interpreted in theoretical terms, my work bears an affinity with the broader field of Critical Geopolitics.Strangely enough, this research program began with examinations of architecture, not violence. I was originally trained in architecture and urban planning, and worked for several years as an architect and urban planner in the US and Israel. When I returned to academia to pursue a Ph.D. at Princeton University, I began to study the politics of holy sites during the period of the British Mandate over Palestine (1917-1948). During a period of extended dissertation research in the Middle East and the UK that was generously funded by a Samuel H. Kress Fellowship from the American Schools of Oriental Research, I found myself instead documenting the emergence of a unique and specifically modern culture of contention. Brutal politics and arguments about the 'Wailing Wall, Buraq', and other Holy Sites emerged as processes whereby consensus positions about the relation between mass violence and historical change were tacitly elaborated. As stakeholders accused one another of instigating various eruptions of popular feeling -like the Wailing Wall/Buraq riots-they unwittingly fashioned a shared thematization of political reality and a consensus about how the political conditions in which they were bound took place. With the help of a MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security (CIPS-SSRC) (1995-1997), this work resulted in my first book, An Aesthetic Occupation: The Immediacy of Architecture and the Palestine Conflict (Duke University Press, 2002). Since then, my work has focused on two distinct, but related areas of research. The first concerns the convergence of spatial/geographic knowledge and strategic/military practices. Together with my colleagues in the P-CON Program at Colgate University and members of the Politics/State/Space Research Group at Durham University (UK), I've organized a number of international colloquia on this issue, and co-edited the resulting publications. One of these, on the topic of 'Urbicide,' or the relation between the city and contemporary asymmetrical conflict, has appeared as a special volume of the Journal Theory and Event; another, on 'Forgotten Conflicts,' is in production. I have also written on strategists' conceptions of the contemporary networked battlefield and on Israel's self-declared security barrier. Finally, this vein of research has produced a volume co-edited with Mike Davis entitled Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism (New Press, 2007). This work has been described as "a global guidebook to phantasmagoric but real places-alternate realities being constructed as 'utopias' in a capitalist era unfettered by unions and state regulation." My second area of research continues and extends the study of the forms of strategic interaction characterizing the Israel/Palestine conflict that I began in An Aesthetic Occupation. My Wilson Center project on the recursive politics of recrimination following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War will constitute the second volume of a projected three-volume study on this topic. My academic home is Colgate University, where I direct P-CON, the Peace and Conflict Studies Program, and am also a member of the Geography Department. In addition to teaching in my program and department, as a member of Colgate's Middle East and Islamic Studies Program, I offer courses on Israel and the Israel/Palestine Conflict. The P-CON curriculum has a slightly different orientation from many analogous programs, focusing especially on reflexive and critical analyses of contemporary transnational conflicts and peace-making attempts. We hope thereby to train our students to apply the most sophisticated aspects of contemporary academic thought to the most pressing contemporary global problems and issues.
B.A. (1981) Columbia University; M.Arch. (1984) Columbia University; Ph.D. (1995) Princeton University
Geopolitics,Israeli Politics,Middle East,Palestinian Politics,Urban Issues
- Director, Peace and Conflict Studies Program (P-CON), Colgate University, 2004-07
- Co-Director, and Associate Professor, Art/Phil Program, State University of New York, Stony Brook, 1998-2002
- Assistant Professor, Harvard University GSD, 1996-98
- MacArthur Foundation Fellow [CIPS-SSRC], Institute of War and Peace Studies, Columbia University, 1995-96
Israeli politics and history, Middle East, Palestinian politics and history, urban issues, critical geopolitics
'Traces of Aggression' is a projected history of the mutual recrimination practiced by Arabs and Israelis in the aftermath of the 1967 war. It chronicles the way defense intellectuals, philosophers, politicians, historians, and others construed and made sense of the strategic interaction of all those involved in a recursive politics of blame. The project examines how the dynamics of postwar contention -and reviews of those dynamics- have advanced a common vision of historical change; that is, a tacitly shared theory of history that has normalized subsequent arguments for the intractability of this conflict. Traces of Aggression engages with the aspirations of a critical theory of history in that it reviews how these commonly-accepted and 'reified forms of contention' are premised on visions of history that are logically untenable.