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MES Lecture: Yael Zerubavel, “Desert in the Promised Land”

October 28 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm CDT

Yael Zerubavel, “Desert in the Promised Land: The Politics and Semiotics of Space in Israeli Culture”

Rutgers University

The lecture draws on Zerubavel’s new book, Desert in the Promised Land, published by Stanford University Press (2019). At once an ecological phenomenon and a cultural construction, the desert has varied associations in Zionist and Israeli culture. Yael Zerubavel tells the story of the desert from the early twentieth century to the present, shedding light on romantic-mythical associations, settlement and security concerns, environmental sympathies, and the commodifying tourist gaze. Drawing on literary narratives, educational texts, newspaper articles, tourist materials, films, popular songs, posters, photographs, and cartoons, Zerubavel reveals the complexities and contradictions that mark Israeli society’s semiotics of space in relation to the Middle East, and the central role of the “besieged island” trope in Israeli culture and politics.

About the presenter:

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Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition (University of Chicago Press, 1995) and Desert in the Promised Land (Stanford University Press, 2019), and is currently working on another book manuscript entitled Biblical Reenactments: The Performance of Antiquity in Israeli Culture.


October 28
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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Middle East Studies Program
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