Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Neil Smith


Michael Blim

Subject Categories

Geography | Near Eastern Languages and Societies | Other International and Area Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology


Geography, Israel/Palestine, Palestine, Political Economy, State Theory, Urbanism


This dissertation argues that the present push towards privatization and state building in the West Bank, while enabling new forms of profit and accumulation in parts of the landscape, is generating new forms of political instability, stability, and political economic relationships between Palestinians, as well as between the West Bank and Israel. Organized around an ethnographic account of the process to create Rawabi, a $1 billion privately funded new city for 40,000 Palestinians, it argues that new political, economic, and social forms are emerging in relation to new types of investment, debt, and accumulation in new types of physical spaces. The new town is the flagship initiative of recent state building and reform projects for the West Bank. It will comprise a government municipality under developers' authority, a political development that could drastically alter the built environment, the geographies of political administration, land ownership structure, and daily life for West Bank Palestinians far beyond it.

This dissertation is based on field research conducted between September 2009 and December 2010, and on shorter trips in 2007, 2008, and 2013, among real estate developers, representatives of finance capital, government bureaucrats, ordinary Palestinians, and Palestinian and Israeli supporters and opponents of the project. Interview data and readings of documents from various initiatives and pro-privatization NGOs point towards the different directions that Palestine is moving, and the alternate excitement or anxiety that different people in different places feel about images of the future of Palestine. The day after the occupation is constantly invoked, but different Palestinians are unequally incorporated into it.

A focus on the creation of housing and land markets, and the ways that people are integrated into those markets, draws attention to some of the issues that are elided in many local-scale critiques of privatization in Palestine. State building is a Palestinian elite project to manage the dynamics of occupation and to create a functioning state-scale economy with enough stability to protect and encourage ongoing investment and accumulation. Despite the unlikelihood of a clear, territorial, Palestinian state in the West Bank emerging in the near-term, the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian capitalists are not simply waiting for the day after, they are producing it. This dissertation represents the first substantive and critical account of the state being produced through privatization in the West Bank.

This work is embargoed and will be available for download on Tuesday, October 01, 2024

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