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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Transformative Practices within Mechanisms of Control: “Recognizing” Unrecognized Arab-Bedouin Villages in Israel


“Seeing from the South” (Watson 2008) and “Re-engaging Planning Theory with South-Eastern Perspectives” (Yiftachel 2006) are essential calls for the development of planning theories and empirical research from the Global South. Such scholarship has interpreted the rationalities at play as informal settlements develop on the peripheries of rapidly globalizing cities and explored how they reflect the nature of state interventions. This article examines the utility of planning theories issued from the Global South and North in explaining a case of state planning for an indigenous, ethnic minority in Israel: the Negev/Naqab Arab-Bedouins. The researchers conducted 90 interviews with planners, engineers, Bedouin residents, government officials, academics, and employees of non-governmental organizations. Their aim was to understand how stakeholders comprehended, engaged with, and approached planning for the Abu-Basma Regional Council, a state initiative to plan and provide services to informal Bedouin villages in Israel’s south, as well as the program’s outcomes. The findings indicate that planning theories from the Global South, which are focused on space, resource distribution, and resident-driven spatial change, are essential to understanding the outcomes of planning. They provide a necessary context for the North’s normative/prescriptive planning theories, which highlight tangible “episodes” (Healey 2007, 78) of planning practice but risk misattributing popular resistance to a program’s communication challenges, rather than to residents’ fundamental objections.


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