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Elastic Empire: Refashioning War through Aid in Palestine


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The United States integrated counterterrorism mandates into its aid flows in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the early years of the global war on terror. Some two decades later, this securitized model of aid has become normalized across donor intervention in Palestine. Elastic Empire traces how foreign aid, on which much of the Palestinian population is dependent, has multiplied the sites and means through which Palestinian life is regulated, surveilled, and policed—this book tells the story of how aid has also become war.


Drawing on extensive research conducted in Palestine, Elastic Empire offers a novel accounting of the US security state. The US war chronicled here is not one of tanks, grenades, and guns, but a quieter one waged through the interlacing of aid and law. It emerges in the infrastructures of daily life—in a greenhouse and library, in the collection of personal information and mapping of land plots, in the halls of municipal councils and in local elections—and indelibly transfigures lives. Situated in a landscape where the lines between humanitarianism and the global war on terror are increasingly blurred, Elastic Empire reveals the shape-shifting nature of contemporary imperial formations, their realignments and reformulations, their haunted sites, and their obscured but intimate forms.


  • Dr. Lisa Bhungalia is a political geographer researching late-modern war, law, empire, and transnational linkages between the US and Southwest Asian and North African region. Forthcoming from Stanford University Press, her book, Elastic Empire: Refashioning War through Aid in Palestine, examines the entanglements of aid, law, and war in Palestine with attention to the policing and surveillance regimes produced through the embedding of counterterrorism laws and infrastructures into civilian aid flows. She is also currently developing new research on the social lives of terrorism databases. Her research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, and Palestinian American Research Center, among other bodies, and her published work has appeared in Politics and Space, Political Geography, Geopolitics, Small Wars & Insurgencies, Society and Space, Environment and Planning A, Middle East Report, and Jadaliyya, among other venues.

  • Dr. Illana Feldman Professor Feldman is a cultural and historical anthropologist who works in the Middle East. Her research has focused on the Palestinian experience, both inside and outside of historic Palestine, examining practices of government, humanitarianism, policing, displacement, and citizenship.She has conducted ethnographic and archival research in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt.