Middle East Studies

Sophie Kasakove '17.5 explores the use of urban planning and public works development in the UK and Israel

This summer I conducted research towards my honors thesis in Middle East Studies, which explores the use of urban planning and public works development as tools of British and Zionist counterinsurgency against the Arab Revolt (1936-9). Through my archival research I was able to identify patterns of urban development that were particularly integral to the securitization process of 1930s Palestine. I gained a deeper understanding of the ways in which the British/Zionist relationship developed in and around this development—in particular, how the Zionist leadership was able to gain power through the mechanisms of urban planning and architecture. And, I traced strong connections between the construction of the urban landscape as a mechanism of control in the 1930s with the way the current Israeli administration uses the urban landscape continues to create segregation and to impose order on (particularly Arab) citizens.

My research took me first to archives in the UK, including the National Archive in London, I was able to view a number of crucial administrative documents and correspondence between British officials and the Zionist leadership. I then traveled to Israel, where I had the opportunity to connect with a number of people familiar with my field of study, including scholars at Israeli universities, architects, and city planners. I also continued my archival research including at the Central Zionist Archive, the Haganah historic archive, and the Tel Aviv and Haifa municipal archives.

Through my research, I was able to narrow the scope of my thesis, correct some of my misconceptions about my area of study, and develop and support my argument. Through trial and error, I learned a lot about conducting archival research and the best ways to prepare in advance of entering an archive. In particular, I learned how to how to navigate an administrative archive— how to locate the ideologies and assumptions underlying administrative bureaucracy. I’m excited to see how I can use these skills in my future work, particularly in a journalistic context, and to see how I can integrate this type of work with more interview-based research.