[P6446] The Colonial Hourglass: Sand and Political Power in the Southeastern Mediterranean

Created by Dotan Halevy
Friday, 12/03/21 2:00 pm


The panel seeks to recover the glaringly overlooked history of the modern use of sand within the making of political power in twentieth-century Palestine/Israel and Sinai, highlighting its effect on the rise of real-estate capitalism, population removal, and resettlement, and the placing of coastal plains within environmental consciousness. The unbound quarrying of sand worldwide for the construction industry marked this substance as a locus for scholarly concern in recent years. However, within scientific and environmentalist literature, sand and the spaces where it occurs are largely taken to be marginal to inquiries about the market economy and insignificant for discussions around property rights, political culture, and law. Applying a humanistic approach to studying a natural landscape, the panel exposes these absences and probes how they were historically produced. It demonstrates how, throughout the twentieth century, sand was transformed into a site of colonial imaginary, political contestation, and economic exploitation.
By examining sand history from several perspectives, the panel also historicizes the remaking of the southeastern Mediterranean “coastal plain” in the twentieth century. Combining varied expertise from coastal conservationism, through design technologies and construction materials, to military planning and strategic thinking, the panel portrays the multifaceted process by which the Levant coast turned within roughly a century from an economic and political backwater into a key site for novel forms of architectural and spatial transformations, consolidation of state power, and the accumulation of political and financial capital.


Unknown; Unknown



Naor Ben-Yehoyada

(Columbia University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Discussant;

Moriel Ram

(Newcastle University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Dotan Halevy

(Columbia University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter; Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;