Producing Spoilers

Producing Spoilers: Peacemaking and the Production of Enmity in a Secular Age,  Oxford University Press, 2014.   Dalsheim Producing Spoilers Cover

Producing Spoilers shows how processes of conflict resolution, diplomacy, dialogue, education, and social theorizing about liberation, peace, and social justice actually participate in constructing enemies, thus limiting the options for peaceful outcomes. In the case of Israel/Palestine, supporters of Hamas and radical religious Israeli settlers seem to serve one purpose in the international peace process: to provide an excuse for its failure. High-level diplomatic negotiators and grassroots peace activists alike blame religious extremists for acting as “spoilers” of rational negotiation, and have often attempted to neutralize, co-opt, or marginalize them. In Producing Spoilers, Joyce Dalsheim explores the problem of stalled peacemaking by viewing spoilers not as the cause, but as a symptom of systemic malfunctions within the concept of the nation-state itself, and the secular constructs of historicism that support it. She argues that spoilers are generated as internal enemies in the course of conflict and used to explain why processes of peace and reconciliation fail. In other words, peacemaking efforts can work to produce enmity. Dalsheim examines the work of politicians and diplomats as well as scholars and grass-roots level peacemakers, drawing on her research and her own experience as an activist for peace. She identifies a number of common techniques and assumptions that help to produce spoilers, among them the constraints of the narrative form and how storytelling is employed in conflict resolution, and the idea of anachronism, which prevents theorists and activists from seeing creative possibilities for peaceful coexistence. Dalsheim also looks at the limits of territorial solutions and the consequences of nationalism-the context in which spoilers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are produced. She contrasts that nationalism with current theorizing on flexible citizenship and diasporic identity. The book culminates by moving beyond national enmity and outside conventional peacemaking to clear a space in which to think about alternative forms of negotiation, exchange, community, and coexistence.

Early Reviews

“Joyce Dalsheim’s book is a timely contribution to a deeper understanding of the various and contradictory narratives of Israelis and Palestinians. These are voices and views of great importance for any hoped-for peace, and yet they have been given hardly any voice by the dominant political frameworks of peace processes. Here you will find the sensitive eyes and ears of a cultural anthropologist who provides a much more nuanced reading of all the parties to the conflict. The deeper empathic understanding of these parties and their worldviews is the only hope for short term and long term solutions that involve the least amount of violence and the greatest hope for a realistic path of justice and fairness to all communities affected by this century-old conflict.”

–Marc Gopin, James H. Laue Professor of World Religions,                                                     Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution, George Mason University

“This book simultaneously engages and challenges the current fashion for the reification of ‘the enemy’ à la Carl Schmitt. With a moving synthesis of ethnography and theory, Dalsheim studies the site where the ‘enemy effect’ is produced, in part through the very rhetoric of ‘conflict resolution.’ The radical message of her work is that in a true search for peace, no one–not even the most ‘inconvenient’–may be left behind.”

–Jonathan Boyarin, Mann Professor of Modern Jewish Studies,                                                   Cornell University

“Nation, narration, recognition-these are among the complicated terms that oscillate, rather than mediate, between war and peace. They reach deep into entrenched certainties and familiar divisions. In Israel/Palestine, Dalsheim reminds us, they endure as ‘alibis of failure’. Casting and recasting them out of the troubling margins of the so-called conflict (spoilers, settlers, peacemakers, conversation stoppers, and repugnant others), this book seeks nothing less than to move the very ground of our moral imagination.”

–Gil Anidjar, author of   The Jew, the Arab: A History of the Enemy

Published Reviews

Jeff Halper in American Anthropologist

Anna Bernard in the Journal of Palestine Studies Bernard Review of Producing Spoilers in JPS

Available for purchase at Oxford University Press ,or at Amazon.