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Conducting Research on West Bank Settlements: Architecture as Punctum and Archive

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Abstract

Conducting research on Israel's settlement project has become increasingly difficult throughout the past decade due to restrictions on public access to both the field and archives, including those of contemporary planning data. Meanwhile, scholars and activists have continued to document the spatial implications of settlements by diversifying their methods, including using architecture as forensic evidence of political aggression. In response, those who regulate access to archives and the field have focused on obfuscating information that could corroborate the illegality of settlements. This has led to a cyclical process in which the exposure of information and data has prompted the creation of further barriers to the field. Deep gaps in formal, authoritative data require methodological creativity and flexibility, such as reading the built environment itself as a primary source. Borrowing from Roland Barthes, this article points to the transgressive potential of architecture as a punctum, a point that opens research to multiple interpretations and helps researchers circumvent restrictions imposed by those regulating access to primary material. In this case study, we show how limited access to archival data has led researchers to study pre-approved settlement planning documents and settler-produced documentary clips, interweaving field and archive in meaningful ways. We argue that, by taking such an approach, researchers may transcend not only issues of access, but also traditional boundaries of disciplines.
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Keywords: Israel-Palestine; West Bank; architectural history; methods; research; settlements

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000121102151 Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

Publication date: July 1, 2020

More about this publication?
  • The International Journal of Islamic Architecture (IJIA) is intended for those interested in urban design and planning, architecture, and landscape design in the historic Islamic world, encompassing the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, but also the more recent geographies of Islam in its global dimensions. The main emphasis is on detailed analysis of the practical, historical and theoretical aspects of architecture, with a focus on both design and its reception. The journal is also specifically interested in contemporary architecture and urban design in relation to social and cultural history, geography, politics, aesthetics, technology, and conservation. Spanning across cultures and disciplines, IJIA seeks to analyze and explain issues related to the built environment throughout the regions covered. The cross-cultural and interdisciplinary nature of this journal will significantly contribute to the knowledge in this field.

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