Jake Silver

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Duke U.

Grant number

Gr. 9654

Approve Date

April 16, 2018

Project Title

Silver, Jake, Duke U., Durham, NC - To aid research on 'Political and Astronomical Horizons in Occupied Palestine,' supervised by Dr. Rebecca L. Stein

Preliminary abstract: Over the past decade, the Palestinian territories have experienced what could be called an astronomy boom: from the emergence of university clubs and graduate programs in major cities, to the founding of public astronomy organizations, to the development of small-scale, community observatories, a fascination with the interstellar has seized local audiences. Many Palestinian astronomers have speculated that growing geographic and political suffocation in the West Bank and Gaza are one reason why the science’s popularity has surged: with Israeli military rule restricting Palestinian movement throughout these regions, astronomy helps bring them to something outside their carceral homeland. As one prominent Palestinian astrophysicist puts it, astronomy can show Palestinians that there is a ‘beautiful universe for everybody out there’ with ‘no borders.’ Set against this backdrop of structural and psychological violence, I seek to understand why–given the obstacles and massive commitment of time and resources–Palestinians are seeking to create and institutionalize a field of astronomy now. What work does studying the galaxy and looking out into the universe do for them? This investigation of an emergent science involves two secondary questions: What does it take to imagine, create, and organize the material infrastructure, both technical and human, for such a science to take shape? And what does the civilian turn to astronomy tell us about the political present and future in Palestine? I will explore these questions through ethnographic work alongside university astronomy clubs and departments, astronomy education NGOs, and more rural observatories in the West Bank.