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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Savory Politics : : Land, Memory, and the Ecological Occupation of Palestine


Using the olive as an optic, I conduct multi-sited, interdisciplinary research to explore the complex manifestations of settler-colonialism, using the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank as my case study. Broadly, I argue that settler-colonialism relies on both material and cultural mechanisms of disappearing native peoples. I elucidate this dual nature of settler- colonialism by analyzing the neoliberal consumption of Palestinian olive oil and popular visual representations of Palestinian bodies against the ongoing material transformation of Palestinian landscapes--processes I collectively conceptualize as vanishment. The signification of the olive is not only symbolic; in fact, Palestinian livelihoods are contingent upon the thriving of the olive and its extractions for culinary, bodily, spiritual, and cultural reasons. As Palestinians continue to experience the decimation of their olive groves, the consumption of Palestinian olive oil has become increasingly popular through transnational fair trade circuits. I examine the racialized and gendered tropes of Palestinian indigeneity--thus bringing Food Studies into conversation with Cultural Studies, Critical Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies and Postcolonial Theory. I end with an alternative reading of the olive that sees it as a site where Palestinian women are able to recover and transmit memory to their children and enact a form of self -determination in the face of pending vanishment. Through performance ethnography including olive oil tasting, olive harvesting, and eating, as well as interviews with the olive producers, olive oil exporters, and living with farmers and their families, this dissertation project offers new theoretical questions about the ways in which settler-colonialism, and the processes of vanishing native peoples and their subjectivities, coresides with neoliberal, multicultural tropes of contingent humanity

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