Driving while Palestinian in Israel and the West Bank

The politics of disorientation and the routes of a subaltern knowledge

by Amahl Bishara

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Israel's system of closure divides Palestinian citizens of Israel from Palestinians of the West Bank. For members of both categories, road journeys spur political analysis, explicitly stated or implicitly packed into jokes or offhand comments. If, in liberal traditions, political knowledge is idealized as disembodied, abstract, and dispassionate, Palestinian knowledge gained while driving is none of these things. Yet it can provide important insights into the operations of Israeli power less easily represented in more formal outlets. Because the road system is an everyday site at which its users come into contact with the work of the state, driving is an important practice through which to examine popular conceptions of politics. Still, these two communities of Palestinians face obstacles in communicating about shared understandings of space and politics. In examining everyday political knowledge of subaltern people, we must attend to varieties of subalterneity to examine how these differences can perpetuate marginalization.