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Territoriality and the Technics of Drylands Science in Palestine and North America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2015

Omar Imseeh Tesdell*
Affiliation:
Department of Geography, Birzeit University, Birzeit, Palestine; e-mail: otesdell@birzeit.edu

Extract

At the turn of the 20th century, agricultural experts in several countries assembled a new agro-scientific field: dryland farming. Their agricultural research practices concomitantly fashioned a new agro-ecological zone—the drylands—as the site of agronomic intervention. As part of this effort, American scientists worked in concert with colleagues in the emerging Zionist movement to investigate agricultural practices and crops in Palestine and neighboring regions, where nonirrigated or rainfed agriculture had long been practiced. In my larger manuscript project, I consider how the reorganization of rainfed farming as dryfarming is central to the history of both the Middle East and North America, where it was closely related to modern forms of power, sovereignty, and territoriality. I suggest that American interest in dryfarming science emerged out of a practical need to propel and sustain colonization of the Great Plains, but later became a joint effort of researchers from several emerging settler enterprises, including Australia, Canada, and the Zionist movement. In contrast to a naturally ocurring bioregion, I argue that the drylands spatiality was engineered through, rather than outside, the territorialization of modern power.

Type
Roundtable
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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References

NOTES

1 Nassar worked against the dispossession of villages after land sales, including as early as 1909 in the village of al-Shajara. Khalidi, Rashid, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 115Google Scholar.

2 Hargreaves, Mary W. M, Dry Farming in the Northern Great Plains, 1900–1925 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1957), 8384Google Scholar.

3 Knobloch, Frieda, The Culture of Wilderness Agriculture as Colonization in the American West (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 61Google Scholar.

4 Widtsoe, John A., Dry-Farming: A System of Agriculture for Countries under a Low Rainfall (New York: Macmillan Company, 1919), xiGoogle Scholar.

5 As Blackhawk has shown, only thirty years before Widtsoe's arrival in what became the state of Utah, the Great Basin was the scene of a violent encounter between federal authorities, indigenous peoples, New Mexicans, and Mormon settlers, which resulted in Native dispossession. Blackhawk, Ned, Violence over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008)Google Scholar. See also Chang, David A., The Color of the Land: Race, Nation, and the Politics of Landownership in Oklahoma, 1832–1929 (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 Penslar, Derek, “Technical Expertise and the Construction of the Rural Yishuv, 1882–1948,” Jewish History 14 (2000): 209Google Scholar.

7 Alatout, Samer, “‘States’ of Scarcity: Water, Space, and Identity Politics in Israel, 1948–59,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 26 (2008): 959–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 Nassar's educational formation is not entirely known. His family had become Protestants, facilitating his access to educational institutions such as the Syrian Protestant College (American University of Beirut), where his brother is known to have graduated in pharmacy. Shehadeh, Raja, A Rift in Time: Travels with My Ottoman Uncle (London: Profile Books, 2010), 173–74Google Scholar.

9 Khalidi, Palestinian Identity, 115.

10 Nassarr, Najib, Rasaʾil Sahib al-Karmel, ed. Khleif, Walid (Nazareth, Israel: Matbaʿa wa-Ofset al-Hakim, 1992), 143Google Scholar.

11 Ibid., 80.

12 Nassar, Najib, al-Ziraʿa al-Jaffa (Haifa, Palestine: al-Karmel Press, 1927), 256Google Scholar.

13 Mitchell, Timothy, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2002)Google Scholar.

14 Nassar, al-Ziraʿa al-Jaffa, 240.

15 Davis, Diana, Resurrecting the Granary of Rome : Environmental History and French Colonial Expansion in North Africa (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2007)Google Scholar; Derr, Jennifer L., “Drafting a Map of Colonial Egypt: The 1902 Aswan Dam, Historical Imagination, and the Production of Agricultural Geography,” in Environmental Imaginaries of the Middle East and North Africa, ed. Davis, Diana K. and Burke, Edmund III, 1st ed. (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2011)Google Scholar; Samer Alatout, “Hydro-Imaginaries and the Construction of the Political Geography of the Jordan River,” in Environmental Imaginaries of the Middle East and North Africa.

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