Unsettling Gaza

Secular Liberalism, Radical Religion, and the Israeli Settlement Project

Based on fieldwork in the settlements of the Gaza Strip and surrounding communities during the year prior to the Israeli withdrawal, Unsettling Gaza poses controversial questions about the contentious issue of settlement in Israeli occupied territories in ways that move beyond the usual categories of politics, religion, and culture. It critically examines some of the ways in which settler colonialism can work through social and political categorizations that disguise settler processes. With theoretical implications stretching far beyond the boundaries of Israel/Palestine, Unsettling Gaza’s findings provide both challenges and insight to broader questions at the interface between religiosity and formations of the secular.

Reviews of Unsettling Gaza

“Joyce Dalsheim conducted ethnographic fieldwork among religious settlers in Gaza before they were forcibly removed in 2005 as part of the Israeli government’s redeployment strategy. The result is this interesting study comparing the beliefs and sentiments of these religious settlers with those of secular settlers in pre-1967 Israel. She shows that the distinction between the two is not as clear-cut or as stable as it is often claimed. Anyone wanting to gain a fuller understanding of the religious/secular debate in Israel will find this book useful.”
Talal Asad, CUNY Graduate Center

“Joyce Dalsheim’s book is rich in critical acumen, yet closely grounded in the realities it depicts and altogether readable. It is a signal contribution to the growing literatures in Jewish ethnography and cultural studies. It directly addresses core aspects of the Zionist project and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without rancor, and it adroitly moves beyond the stereotypes of actors in that conflict as it depicts the multiform anxieties underlying what Dalsheim calls ‘the desire to differentiate.’”
Jonathan Boyarin, Leonard and Tobee Kaplan Distinguished Professor of Modern Jewish Thought, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Dalsheim’s anthropology of the religiously motivated settlers of the Gaza Strip, a rare and discomforting contribution toward a new “portrait of the colonizer,” is demanding and literally (if I may) unsettling… Dalsheim works very much against the grain and … demonstrates that a terrifying achievement of colonial power (or is it “powers” now?)…is its capacity to differentiate itself from itself, to operate in a dis-integrated manner, as it were schizophrenically, while nonetheless achieving with ruthless efficacy the singleness of its devastating and destructive purpose” — Gil Anidjar, Columbia University

“With Unsettling Gaza, Joyce Dalsheim throws a monkey wrench into the Manichaean machine of judgment, disrupting the politics of bipolarity and opening up new avenues for reconfiguring the contemporary debate on the uneasy relation of religiosity and secularity.”
Anne Marie Oliver, author of The Road to Martyrs’ Square

“In this fascinating and lucid examination of Israeli settlers in the Gaza Strip, Dalsheim unsettles the appearance of seemingly colliding distinctions between secular and religious and left and right in Israel. Dalsheim’s richly detailed ethnography and theoretically informed analysis astutely probes these discursive formations to illuminate how they appear to be starkly different yet work together to accomplish the continuing colonization of Palestine and its moral legitimacy … this penetrating, provocative, and brave book transcends the dichotomy of secular and religious narratives.”
Julie Peteet, author of Landscape of Hope and Despair: Palestinian Refugee Camps

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