Wednesday, March 18, 2015
McKinney Conference Room
The urban landscapes of Johannesburg and Jerusalem are increasingly defined by extreme forms of walled enclosure. South African elites surround their homes with brick walls and electric fences, put gates around their neighborhoods, and hire private security companies for protection. Meanwhile, the State of Israel is building a series of walls and fences around Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. What explains the concurrent construction of these walled enclosures? And what do they teach us about inequality and insecurity in an era of neoliberal globalization? Based on 33 months of archival, ethnographic, and photographic research, this paper analyzes the relationship between political and economic restructuring, the production of marginalized populations, and the politics of security in South Africa and Palestine/Israel. In both societies, the political transitions of the 1990s – the end of formal apartheid in South Africa and the Oslo ‘peace process’ in the Middle East – were coupled with neoliberal restructuring. The combination has produced growing race and class inequality, widespread insecurity, and concentrated precariousness. In both societies, elite insecurity has generated massive investments in efforts to contain the urban poor. In South Africa, private security companies and wealthy neighborhood associations have taken the lead in developing strategies to police poor Black South Africans. And in Palestine/Israel, an imperial network of coordinated security forces polices the Palestinian precariat – not only the Israeli police and military, but also the United States, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority itself.