Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Since its consolidation as a discipline, anthropology has taken up the well-known task of “making the strange familiar, and the familiar strange.” But the anthropologist of settler colonialism may find that the work of familiarizing the strange has already been done for them. Making the strange familiar is also the charge of the settler, who must render familiarity from the strange, exotic, or hostile environment which is to become their new home. This is part of the work of erasure endemic to settler colonialism: transforming indigenous landscapes into (familiar) settler ones. Familiarity of this sort has been cornerstone to the entrenchment and expansion of the Israeli settler project in the West Bank. While most work on Israeli settlements focuses on the radicalism and/or religiosity of settler “outposts,” this paper will focus on large-scale suburban settlement that hinges precisely on affective familiarity. For Israeli first-time visitors to these kinds of settlements, they feel familiar both in the sense that they feel like the kind of place that one could raise a family (perhaps even their family), and in the sense that they feel like any number of places they’ve been before in the center of Israel.This is not incidental: it is the result of public affective labor, and a deliberate political strategy. The problem of familiarity thus stands poised between translation, affect, and politics, shedding on the structural likeness of settler-colonial projects. In such a context, what is the work of anthropology?Do we make the familiar strange? Or the strange familiar?