On settler changing the land: Tamar Novick, ‘Milk & honey: Technologies of plenty in the making of a Holy Land, 1880-1960’, PhD Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2014
Abstract: Studies of modern Palestine and Israel usually highlight the struggle of European powers for control and the formation of Jewish and Palestinian nationalisms. This dissertation does otherwise. With a thesis centered on the physical “making of a Holy Land,” this work combines the perspectives of cultural history, environmental history, and science and technology studies (STS) to examine the ways in which settlers in Palestine and Israel in the late nineteenth and twentieth century used science and technology to construct a religious idea of the past. In particular, this project centers on the design of certain agricultural productions, which reflected the core belief that the Holy Land should be plentiful—essentially, a “land flowing with of milk and honey.” I explore the various ways that settlers understood the land, demonstrate how the configuration of the environment was intertwined with the construction of settler society, and highlight the ways in which religious sentiments became fused with—not replaced by—modern technological projects throughout the course of three political regimes. This dissertation also reveals the extent to which this process of making a Holy Land transformed the landscape and everyday lives of people and animals in the Middle East, and ultimately suggests that bodies were always recalcitrant mediators.
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