2022 Winner: The Geo-Legal History of the Kabarra Wetland & al-Gawarna People in Israel/Palestine

Project Information
The Geo-Legal History of the Kabarra Wetland & al-Gawarna People in Israel/Palestine
Social Sciences
Independent Studies with Professor Anna Tsing
A drained wetland is a political ecology: a project that can only be completed through enormous economic and political power. This essay is a part of a larger effort to contextualize the story of Jisr al-Zarqa’s shoreline fishing village in the political ecology of Israel-Palestine. Their story was, up until one hundred years ago, the story of the Bedouin al-Gawarna and the Kabarra wetlands. In order to understand their story today, my essay will integrate the land laws of three political regimes--the Ottoman Empire, British Mandate Palestine, and Israel--to the ongoing dispossession of the Ghawarna peoples’ from contemporary landscapes of industrial capitalism. I explore primary and secondary sources on how the use of land laws between political regimes justified transforming the Kabarra wetland into an ecology of production, and pinpoint how these colonial histories modified the identities of Jisr’s ancestors into outsiders without the capacity to care for the land. This transformation was grounded in differing temporalities of “wastelands” that Ottoman and British land laws modified to fit their ecopolitical needs. The malaria in the swamps and the labor of the Gawarneh transformed Kabarra's ecology into a political ecology that reproduces wastelands in Palestine and produces capital that is inaccessible to the Indigenous people. The contemporary colonial histories that exist of the Gawarna are written as scarce foundations for the modern-day town of Jisr al-Zarqa.
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  • Nona Golan (Merrill)