The market encounter (and settler colonialism): Jeremy Siegman, Enemies in the Aisles: the Politics of Market Encounter on Israel’s Settler Frontier, PhD Dissertation, University of Chicago, 2018


Abstract: Enemies in the Aisles is a study of the politics of Israeli-Palestinian market encounter in Israeli businesses in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. It shows how these market encounters partially depoliticize Israeli-Palestinian relations and thus normalize Israeli settler colonization, but also how political antagonisms crop up in the marketplace to render this normalization partial and precarious. 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork centered on participant-observation at one of the large supermarkets that have proliferated in Israeli settlements in recent years, where many to most entry-level workers are occupied Palestinian subjects and most customers and managers are Jewish-Israeli settlers. The study’s focus on this particularly rich site of Israeli-Palestinian encounter was supplemented by broader interviews and immersion with Palestinians who are subject to Israeli occupation and dispossession while working in Israeli service economies. In the context of intensified, militarized separation between Israelis and Palestinians since the 1990s, supermarkets and other settlement businesses have become rare spaces of ostensibly civilian encounter between the groups. They have also become flashpoints for broader discourses about the market as a site of peace, or alternatively of domination. Enemies offers a nuanced ethnographic account of the relations among neoliberalism, market practice and the entrenchment of Israeli settler colonization and occupation, complicating literatures that have emphasized the structural alignment between these forces. Specifically, I argue that Israeli-Palestinian market encounters instill a precarious normalization of Israeli settler colonization. On the one hand, the exploitation of Palestinian service work, as well as a partially civilianized security regime, help to displace the political antagonisms of colonization from the marketplace, producing an atmosphere that partly normalizes Israeli dominance. On the other hand, at times this normalization is unsettled by forms of political antagonism that emerge both subtly and overtly from workplace interactions, and range from hovering suspicions to direct, heated exchanges about the 2014 Gaza war. The project conceptualizes these findings as various forms of settler-indigenous antagonism, including an antagonistic public sphere and a politics of dissonance between a settler public and a Palestinian counterpublic. These forms of political antagonism point to the limits of market depoliticization – and the shortcomings of an analytical overemphasis on it – even though, crucially, they do not constitute agonistic democracy and are not best characterized as forms of indigenous resistance. Enemies thus puts anthropological, political-theoretical and other writings on neoliberalism, settler colonialism, security, public spheres and the political into novel conversation. Through its focus on frontier service economies, Enemies also draws attention to the distinctly civilian, settler aspects of Israeli power, intervening in Palestine Studies and critical theory literatures that have habitually emphasized military power and logics of rule in Israel/Palestine as a site of global counter-insurgency. I thus help resituate Israel/Palestine for further, nuanced comparison to various global configurations of (neo-)liberalism with settler colonialism, securitization and other forms of power.

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