Randa May Wahbe

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Harvard U.

Grant number

Gr. 9853

Approve Date

April 30, 2019

Project Title

Wahbe, Randa (Harvard U.) "Dead Bodies, Living Archive: Post-Mortem Surveillance in Palestine/Israel"

An estimated 241 Palestinian corpses currently lie in shallow, mass graves within concealed and restricted military zones in Israel, their bodies having been confiscated and withheld by the Israeli armed forces for decades. There is no official Israeli public record of the bodies or burial sites, and they are referred to by Palestinians as maqaber al-arqam (“cemeteries of numbers”) for the tattered, numbered placards marking the location of each corpse. My project investigates the Israeli state’s surveillance and control over the bodies of the Palestinian dead, centering the power of the dead body within a settler colonial framework. I pose the following questions: How do colonial geographies of surveillance work to control and criminalize the Palestinian dead? What power do Palestinian dead bodies hold in the precariousness of the Israeli settler colonial project? How have Palestinian burial rites been affected, and how have communities resisted such policies? The cemeteries of numbers are emblematic of the political, spatial and cosmological battle in Palestine/Israel, and this research delves deeper into larger themes of settler-colonialism, criminalization of dead and ultimately, the manipulation of dead bodies and their erasure as a necessary tactic to extend the reach of the state over hostile populations.