Situating Zionism: S. Nutt, Self-Determination, Sovereignty and History: Situating Zionism in the Settler-Colonial Archive, PhD dissertation, University of Exeter, 2019

24Oct19

Abstract: Pre-existing models of Zionism as a Central European organic nationalist movement have sought to locate its rise to historic prominence primarily in the context of British imperial instrumentality which Zionist national histories themselves that have sought to emphasize. This thesis finds this specific connection unsatisfying, and therefore takes a broader historic and thematic view. Using the settler colonial research paradigm as a starting point, and its inherently comparative, trans-national and trans-historical perspective, it will attempt to trace several genealogies. The first, of the post-Enlightenment construction of the reasoning subject and the theory of self-determination, would be constituted against, and in front of, or prior to, the extended world, and the Others of a similarly constructed “mankind” that were seen to inhabit it. Through the philosophies of these self-determining subjects in common, in relation to private property and to the state that would secure it for them, it will come to an as yet unresolved problem of the sovereign subject and the universalization of that subject’s freedom in the sovereignty of the modern democratic state, a problem that many European thinkers would seek the resolution of in the potentiality of the settler colonial frontier. A second genealogy will trace the self-determining subjects of post-Enlightenment philosophy as they made their transits on the stage of history in and between what James Belich termed the “Settler Empire.” This imperium, encompassing the Second British Empire and the United States of America, contained and produced imagined communities, myths of racialized identity, technologies of racial government and settlement and attitudes to history and the future of the planet, that prefigured Zionism and practices of the state of Israel, which have proven to be one of its lasting legacies. A final genealogy will trace the sacred and secular messianic of Protestantism in Britain and America, which I argue after Gabriel Piterberg and Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin shows that Zionism is largely a continuance of Christian historicism and restorationist traditions rather than of the Jewish tradition and that the history of Protestantism in the settler colonial world had profound import on this development historically. This argument is reinforced by a close reading of key Christian and Jewish Zionist texts, analysed from the perspective of comparative settler colonial studies. This reveals that key ideological tropes of Zionism were pre-figured in the Christian Zionist tradition, that Jewish Zionism re-articulated Christian restorationist traditions, and importantly, that the legacies of settler colonial histories played an important role in shaping the development of Zionist ideology and the work of some of its key thinkers. The genealogy ultimately concludes that British elites and Zionist lobbyists in 1917 in many ways shared the same teleology of history and notion of history itself and their adoption of the Balfour Declaration was in large part consequence of this. The thesis closes by returning to the question of the unresolved problem of the universalization of self-determination in the modern democratic state and the question of sovereign violence in said state. This was a problem that European thought arguably has never fully resolved, but has found a heuristic outlet for the playing out of these issues in the open frontier of the settler colonies. We will show h0w profoundly dangerous a heuristic scheme this is by closely examining the play of sovereignties on the settler colonial frontier in America, Australia and then in contemporary Palestine, to indicate that such heuristic outlets are not to be seen as “practices of freedom” but rather mechanisms of structural invasion, elimination, and necropolitical violence.



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