Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Bard College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Columbia University
West Bank Waste: Governance and Garbage in Two Post-Oslo Municipalities

This is a study of waste management in the absence of a state. If one indication of "good governance" is the provision of basic services, what insights do we acquire about governing authorities in the "stateless" Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) through an examination of waste management practices? I seek to answer this question by investigating a selection of multimillion dollar projects whose central policy objectives are the development of sanitation and the environment. At times, "formal" Palestinian Authority environmentalist development is seen to fail. Responsibility for sanitation is then assumed by "informal" groups such as neighborhood councils, Islamic charities and NGOs. My research will entail observing both "formal" and "informal" sanitation practices and people's everyday relationships to waste management and its infrastructures. This will allow me to analyze how expectations of the meaning and limits of government and of civic engagement are affected by these contending sources and models of governance. Infrastructure, I argue, is a privileged discursive and the material mediator among complex institutions and the people they serve and employ. It therefore allows us to reformulate interdisciplinary understandings of the relationships among the state, governance and civic engagement. In twelve months of ethnographic and archival research in two West Bank municipalities (Ramallah/al-Bireh and Jenin), I will explore sanitation and environmental development as new terrains of governance that produce new models of political authority and social responsibilities. Thus my project will further emerging debates on those (increasingly representative) contexts where some "formal" governing structures fail to be "state-like" while other elements of society, such as NGOs, social movements and corporations, seem to operate according to "state" logics.