Israel and Africa: A Genealogy of Moral Geography, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Israel and Africa

A Genealogy of Moral Geography, 1st Edition

By Haim Yacobi


146 pages | 11 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2015-07-20
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Israel and Africa critically examines the ways in which Africa – as a geopolitical entity - is socially manufactured, collectively imagined but also culturally denied in Israeli politics. Its unique exploration of moral geography and its comprehensive, interdisciplinary research on the two countries offers new perspectives on Israeli history and society.

Through a genealogical investigation of the relationships between Israel and Africa, this book sheds light on the processes of nationalism, development and modernization, exploring Africa’s role as an instrument in the constant re-shaping of Zionism. Through looking at "Israel in Africa" as well as "Africa in Israel", it provides insightful analysis on the demarcation of Israel's ethnic boundaries and identity formation as well as proposing the different practices, from architectural influences to the arms trade, that have formed the geopolitical concept of "Africa". It is through these practices that Israel reproduces its internal racial and ethnic boundaries and spaces, contributing to its geographical imagination as detached not solely from the Middle East but also from its African connections.

This book would be of interest to students and scholars of Middle East and Jewish Studies, as well as Post-colonial Studies, Geography and Architectural History.


Haim Yacobi’s book brings a welcome addition to our understanding of the complex ways in which Africa has informed the construction of identities elsewhere. Admitting that there are parallels with the "orientalist gaze" through which Europe has looked upon Africa, this book effectively highlights the specificity of the Israeli case. It discusses in a crystal clear way how throughout the 20th century Israel constructed an "idea of Africa" in order to define its own identity and how today the "Africa in Israel" issue remains very much at the heart of Israeli politics. Yacobi asks unsettling questions on contemporary stances towards Africa that are not only relevant for the Israeli context, but have wider ramifications. The book does not only provides new knowledge on a hitherto little known topic, but also offers a stimulating theoretical framework that will trigger new scholarly debate, especially on 20th century architecture history in/on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Prof. Johan Lagae, Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, Ghent University

In this thought provoking book, Haim Yacobi takes us on a fascinating journey into the African presence in Israel and the Israeli presence in Africa. Charting a series of back and forth movements between Africa and Israel – involving diplomats, refugees, curators, migrants, architects and planners – Yacobi investigates Africa’s role in the production of Israeli "moral geographies." The book is an important addition to the debate on colonial discourse and practices in Israel, demonstrating how colonial practices of militarised nation-building and modernist planning were exported from Israel to Africa, and presented there as tools of decolonisation. Israel’s fascination-rejection relationship with Africa exposes the profound ambiguities at the heart of the Israeli project itself.

Dr. Yair Wallach, Pears Lecturer in Israeli Studies, SOAS, University of London.

This timely and provocative book shows how geographic imaginations of Africa were constitutive of Israeli identity since the beginning of the Jewish State. Haim Yacobi argues that Israeli state-building practices, including territorial planning, population control and economic management, were shaped in a continuous to-and-fro between Israel and Africa. Straddling architecture, planning, politics and economy, this book shows how exchanges with Africa continue to inform Israeli self-perception and its gaze on African migrants and the Palestinian population.

Dr. Lukasz Stanek, Manchester Architecture Research Centre

Yacobi’s work has complicated analyses of Israel specifically, and colonialism more generally. Readers interested in human geography, studies of colonialism and colonial expertise, postcolonialism, architecture and art history, and Israel/Palestine will find much to think through. It is a rich text on an excellent topic. It is a fascinating account of a settler colonial enterprise and the intricacies of state, nation, and cultural formation. And it is a worthy addition to recent literature on settler colonialism, on Israel specifically, and on Israel and its global relationships.

Kareem Rabie, Society of Fellows in the Humanities, University of Chicago -

Yacobi’s book adds a new, much needed layer of analysis to the growing canon of work engaging with the settler-colonial ethos in Israel, the majority of which is focused on (and even narrowly limited to) the hidden and blatant lines of privilege and exclusion endemic to the relationship between settlers and indigenous peoples.[5] Conversely, Yacobi intersects Israel’s denial of geography with cultural productions of separation and co-optation, not to unveil a bordered, exclusive space, which has become banal in the field of critical geography. Instead, his work exposes the ambiguities in Israeli border-making, through its multiple engagements with Africa, on both African and Israeli soil.

Sharri Plonski, Department of Development Studies, SOAS University of London -

Considering its short length, the book asks and answers many new and extremely important questions, making it essential reading for anyone interested in postcolonial studies, African studies, Middle Eastern and Israeli studies, the study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as cultural studies more broadly speaking. It is one of the few books that critically assess the full measure of the entanglement of colonialism, racism, and postcolonial realities in Israel, as well as the impact of Israel’s Eurocentrism in Africa and Palestine.

François-Xavier Plasse-Couture, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Journal of the Society for Contemporary Thought and the Islamicate World

Table of Contents

Preface Introduction: Family Album Part One: Israel in Africa Chapter 1: Africa's Decade Chapter 2: The Architecture of Foreign Policy Part Two: Africa in Israel Chapter 3: Consuming, Reading, Imagining Chapter 4: North Africa in Israel Chapter 5: The Racialization of Space Part Three: Israel in Africa II Chapter 6: Back to Africa Conclusion

About the Author

Haim Yacobi is Senior Lecturer, Department of Politics and Government, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Middle Eastern Geography

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies