Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Paul Kohlbry – Property, Capital, and Palestinian Land Defense

Thursday, October 17, 2019

12 p.m. – 1 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room, 111 Thayer Street

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This talk examines the economic and juridical forces shaping Palestinian land defense in the highlands of the West Bank. Since Israel’s occupation in 1967, different land defense projects have sought to protect collective territory from land dispossession and settler encroachment. On the one hand, Palestinians—from rural communists to urban real estate developers—find themselves drawing on private property to protect collective territory from the settler state. On the other hand, capital has transformed rural social relations and land use in the West Bank and, as a result, the sorts of collectives that land defense projects can assemble. As a decades-long unfolding of legal struggles and engagements with rural political economy, antagonistic land defense projects should be taken as different answers to a shared problematic: how to hold territory and maintain collective life against forces that pull it apart? In this talk, Palestinian Studies Postdoctoral Research Associate Paul Kohlbry, will sketch out the ways in which different land defense projects have responded to agrarian crisis, why market-centered solutions have come to dominate, and where West Bank land politics may be headed.

Center for Middle East Studies

Paul Kohlbry is an anthropologist who works at the intersection of law, economy, and settler colonial studies. His current project explores how private property has come to orient land politics in the West Bank, tracking how shifts in rural political economy and transformations in property law have shaped Palestinian land defense projects since the 1980s. More broadly, his writing tries to bring Palestine into conversation with a broader range of Indigenous experiences through the lens of political economy. He has also worked with grassroots Palestinian organizations in the West Bank and is interested in learning how research can speak to the needs and concerns of movements. He completed his dissertation at Johns Hopkins University in 2019. At Brown, he will be teaching on land and labor politics, beginning his book manuscript, and surfing Point Judith as much as possible.