The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank explores the manner in which the Palestinian Authority’s performative acts affect and shape the lives and subjective identities of those in its vicinity in the occupied West Bank. The nature of Palestinians’ statelessness has to contend with the rituals of statecraft that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its Palestinian functionaries engage in. These rituals are also economically maintained by an international donor community and are vehemently challenged by Palestinian activists, antagonistic to the prevalence of the statist agenda in Palestine.
Conceptually, the understanding of the PA’s ‘theater of statecraft’ is inspired by Judith Butler’s conception of performativity as one that encompasses several repetitive and ritual performative acts. The authors explore what they refer to as the ‘fuzzy state' (personified in the form and conduct of the PA) looks like for those living it, from the vantage point of PA institutions, NGOs, international representative offices, and activists. Methodologically, the book adopts an ethnographic approach, by way of interviews and observations in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank makes an important and long-due intervention by integrating performance studies and politics to suggest an understanding of the theatrics of woeful statecraft in Palestine. The book is an essential resource for students and scholars interested in the study of the state, International Relations and Politics, Palestine Studies, and the Middle East.
Table of Contents
1. The Theatrics of the ‘State’: An Introduction
2. Palestine and the ‘Global’ imperative of State-Building
3. The Palestinian Authority and its ‘anxious’ functionaries
4. Operating in the shadow of the ‘state’: The case of civil society organizations
5. The ‘state’ and its ‘unwilling’ subjects
Michelle Pace is Professor (MSO) at Roskilde University’s Department of Social Sciences and Business. She is also Honorary Professor in Politics and International Studies at the University of Birmingham in the UK. Her research areas of interest include migration studies, memory studies, and emotions in IR.
Somdeep Sen is a postdoctoral researcher at Roskilde University. His research centers on spatial politics, settler colonialism, postcolonialism, and migration in the Middle East and Europe. He has published on the Israeli–Palestinian ‘conflict’ and co-edited a volume on Syrian refugee children’s journeys in exile (Routledge, 2018)
"What is the meaning of the state in Occupied Palestine? Pace and Sen trace this crucial question in their fascinating and innovative book, detailing how the Palestinian Authority and other actors engage in performances of statehood. A must-read for anyone wanting to untangle the seeming paradox of the stateless state of Palestine." Sophie Richter-Devroe, Hamad Bin Khalifa University
"The book brilliantly examines the crucial aporia into which the Palestinian struggle for national liberation has ended up: the inhibition of the establishment of a Palestinian state as a result of the very theatrical statehood machinery performed by the Palestinian Authority with the support of the international community. Reconstructing the post-Oslo attempts to create the new unachievable sovereign entity and carefully navigating the conflictual political emotions of the key characters in this tragedy, Pace and Sen offer a thoughtful and provocative gaze on one of the most complex cases of self-determination in contemporary history." Nicola Perugini, The University of Edinburgh
"This book is a significant contribution to the study of Palestinian politics and the struggle for freedom and human rights. It is a meticulous dismantling of the 'state building' myth that has long been promoted by the Palestinian Authority and its backers among the 'donor' countries.
Michelle Pace and Somdeep Sen offer a rare evaluation of a subject that has long been unjustifiably ignored or hastily grouped under ostensibly more urgent contexts concerning Israeli ‘security’ and American foreign policy. The authors have provided a concise analysis of the Palestinian reality under the PA, one which is grounded in exhaustive research, backed by ethnographic evidence. It convincingly explains why various political actors, Palestinians and others, collude to promote the farce that the PA is in the process of achieving an independent Palestinian state. The writers diligently address the question of why such political theatrics were allowed to carry on for nearly a quarter of a century, and why sustaining this charade is most harmful to the true aspirations of the Palestinian people.
Candid, concise and comprehensible, this book is a vital contribution to the study of the Palestinian-Israeli subject. It is also an essential contribution to the study of state building within the framework of human rights and international politics.
While keeping the Israeli, regional and international contexts in mind, Pace and Sen have successfully helped unshackle the study of Palestinian politics and the ongoing struggle for freedom from its compulsory marginalization.
The writers make a compelling case of how the Palestinian Authority exists to serve the interests of Israel and its allies, while hindering the struggle for Palestinian rights and freedom. This book is an essential read." Ramzy Baroud, author, The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story
"Pace and Sen depart from the premise that the “imagined state” is a means of subversion that works against Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories. [...] Using theatre as a metaphor for the duplicity determining the absence of Palestinian statehood, Pace and Sen point out inconsistencies in the Oslo Accords which are overlooked, notably the fact that there is no explicit reference to a Palestinian state as a result of negotiations. The text, the authors note, uses the term “interim self-governance”, which impedes independence and curtails the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle." Extract from a review by Ramona Wadi, Middle East Monitor
"What this study can do is help establish a baseline for studying the performance of statecraft in that dynamic specifically. Moreover, future studies that build on this work can clearly articulate why assessing the PA in this way helps us understand the development or demise of the PA as a project. ... the book is an important one for those who study the Palestinian cause and/or the Palestinian Authority as a quasi-state. It is also useful to scholars interested in the impact of repression, beyond the material consequences of physical violence, and makes use of an interesting analytical lens which may be applied to other cases of quasi-stateness." — Dana El Kurd, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Doha, Qatar, Mediterranean Politics, 2020