Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Architecture and Urban Design, University of California / Los Angeles

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2012
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Art History/Architecture, Columbia University
Nationalizing Modernism: Architectural Expertise in Israeli-African Technical Cooperation (1958-1973)

This study explores the cultural-political dynamics of the design and construction of public buildings by Israeli technical cooperation programs in Sub-Saharan African states from 1958 to 1973. Presented as a model for rapid development, Israeli expertise in various fields was construed as nationally specific but at the same time applicable to numerous African states. By focusing on projects such as the Sierra Leone parliament building, Ife University campus in West-Nigeria, and the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry building, this research addresses the ideological and operational contingencies embedded in this neo-colonial modality of transnational exchange. Considering these projects in the framework of African states’ post-independence development plans brings to the fore the international political and economic infrastructure that facilitated them, and the national infrastructure they were supposed to catalyze and sustain. This study expands questions of representation, usually articulated through the realm of aesthetics, to include the ways in which international politics and issues of state governance affected architectural practices and materialized in the final designs. While architectural modernism was propagated in the U.S. and Europe as the International Style, Israeli architects translated it to African countries by imbuing it with nation-building qualities. I argue that it is the Labor-Zionist ideology and set of practices, derived from the settler-colonial experience in the Mandate era, that were exported to the African states. I critically examine how the Israeli Foreign Ministry promoted these practices through traveling exhibitions, state tours, and mass media, and how architects negotiated them in relation to the African commissioners’ expectations and the international professional discourse. By going beyond Cold War dichotomies this study complicates existing narratives of modernization and exposes the socio-cultural underpinnings of globalization