Synopses & Reviews
Marred by political tumult and violent conflict since the early twentieth century, Gaza has been subject to a multiplicity of rulers. Still not part of a sovereign state, it would seem too exceptional to be a revealing site for a study of government. Ilana Feldman proves otherwise. She demonstrates that a focus on the Gaza Strip uncovers a great deal about how government actually works, not only in that small geographical space but more generally. Gazaandrsquo;s experience shows how important bureaucracy is for the survival of government. Feldman analyzes civil service in Gaza under the British Mandate (1917andndash;48) and the Egyptian Administration (1948andndash;67). In the process, she sheds light on how governing authority is produced and reproduced; how government persists, even under conditions that seem untenable; and how government affects and is affected by the people and places it governs.
Drawing on archival research in Gaza, Cairo, Jerusalem, and London, as well as two years of ethnographic research with retired civil servants in Gaza, Feldman identifies two distinct, and in some ways contradictory, governing practices. She illuminates mechanisms of andldquo;reiterative authorityandrdquo; derived from the minutiae of daily bureaucratic practice, such as the repetitions of filing procedures, the accumulation of documents, and the habits of civil servants. Looking at the provision of services, she highlights the practice of andldquo;tactical government,andrdquo; a deliberately restricted mode of rule that makes limited claims about governmental capacity, shifting in response to crisis and operating without long-term planning. This practice made it possible for government to proceed without claiming legitimacy: by holding the question of legitimacy in abeyance. Feldman shows that Gazaandrsquo;s governments were able to manage under, though not to control, the difficult conditions in Gaza by deploying both the regularity of everyday bureaucracy and the exceptionality of tactical practice.
andldquo;Through a historical ethnography of everyday bureaucratic practices in British- and then Egyptian-ruled Gaza, this pathbreaking and lucidly written book offers challenging new perspectives on what government is and how it operates. Governing Gaza is a work of remarkable theoretical sophistication that makes a unique contribution to the anthropology of government and the state while remaining firmly grounded in the specificities of this crisis-ridden place and in the experience of its long-suffering people.andrdquo;andmdash;Zachary Lockman, author of Comrades and Enemies: Arab and Jewish Workers in Palestine, 1906andndash;1948
andldquo;In revealing the regularity, singularity, contradiction, continuity, and rupture at the heart of governing Gaza, Feldmanandrsquo;s original and important book has much to teach scholars of the colonial and postcolonial world, as well as scholars concerned with the historicity and ethnography of government as such.andrdquo;
andldquo;A fascinating and sophisticated examination. . . . The richness of this study is in the mundane, in its reflections on, and deep understanding of, peopleandrsquo;s lives and work as government employees. . . . By making Gaza seem normal, Feldman enables us to see beyond the current headlines and fearful murmurings.andrdquo;
andldquo;This innovative and well-written book has brought to the fore immense detail, scholarly rigor of the first order, and a subtle but substantial political commitment that unearths the genealogy of adversity for residents of Gaza. . . . Feldmanandrsquo;s Governing Gaza, is a superb and imaginative piece of scholarship. As thorough and fascinating an ethnohistory related to Palestine as any other this reviewer has seen.andrdquo;
andldquo;Governing Gaza, Ilana Feldman's meticulously researched, well-argued and fluidly written book, is that rare thing: an historical ethnography of the instruments and institutions of bureaucracy beyond the bounds of Europe. What makes the book particularly important is its long time span. . . .andrdquo;
andldquo;Feldmanandrsquo;s conclusion is powerful not just for her exploration of Gaza during these two important periods in its history, but for her keen insights about current conditions in the region relative to bureaucracy. . . . [T]his book contributes to our understanding of Gaza from an under-explored level of analysis, and is also significant because it furthers our understanding of what it means to be a Palestinian from Gaza.andrdquo;
andldquo;In her remarkable and thoroughly researched book, Governing Gaza, Ilana Feldman unravels the relational aspects that underpin the governing of Gaza through defining periods in its history. . . . Feldman uses archival materials, interviews, and in-depth historical analysis in her meticulous examination of patterns of governance. . . . Her thorough approach makes this book compellingly useful to policymakers, social anthropologists and historians. . . . Feldmanandrsquo;s book deserves a wide reading; it is modest in tone and acutely rigorous in argument and presentation.andrdquo;
andldquo;Governing Gaza is a brilliant exploration of the everyday work of rule. In examining how people produce authority under exceptional circumstances, Ilana Feldman offers an original interpretation of the general conditions of modern bureaucratic power.andrdquo;andmdash;Timothy Mitchell, author of Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity
This historical ethnography of Gazan civil service examines detailed practices of bureaucracy during a tumultuous fifty-year period (that of the British Mandate and the Egyptian Administration) to understand how such continuities are produced and how the crises of regime change and other instabilities affect the everyday work of rule. Governing Gaza gives attention to both continuity and rupture, both stability and crisis, and both regularity and exceptionality in the work of rule. Recognizing that this variety of practices is not accidentally arrayed in government, the book offers a framework for understanding how these seemingly contradictory features operate together to form a ruling practice.
Examines the role of the civil service in Gaza during the British Mandate and Egyptian Administration.
An investigation into how government persists under even the most untenable conditions, based on an analysis of government in Gaza between 1917 and 1967.
About the Author
Ilana Feldman is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at George Washington University.
Table of Contents
Note on Transliteration xiii
1. Introduction: Government Practice and the Place of Gaza 1
Part One. Producing Bureaucratic Authority
2. Ruling Files 31
3. On Being a Civil Servant 63
4. Civil Service Competence and the Course of a Career 91
Part Two. Tactical Practice and Government Work
5. Service in Crisis 123
6. Servicing Everyday Life 155
7. Community Services and Formations of Civic Life 189
8. Conclusion: Gaza and an Anthropology of Government 219