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The Edge of Care

Authors: Noam Leshem*, Department of Geography, Durham University
Topics: Political Geography, Middle East
Keywords: Precarity, Abandonment, Care, Israel-Palestine,
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper points critical attention to particular constellations of precarity that emerge out of a radical abdication of sovereign care. At its heart is a study of Sheikh Sa’ed, a peripheral neighbourhood in southeast Jerusalem, and its extreme isolation since the early 2000s. It documents seemingly familiar processes that have become the hallmark of the colonial present in Palestine: physical enclosure, bureaucratic violence and socioeconomic dispossession. But precarious life as it emerges in Sheikh Sa’d marks a different relation between the sovereign and those subjected to it. If conventionally precarity is understood as either a by-product of neoliberal reordering of life or an outcome of punitive colonial violence, this paper foregrounds spatio-political realities in which carelessness has been systematised into a logic of governance.

Sheikh Sa’d is not unique. Other contemporary geographies across the Middle East (and beyond) reveal this systematic abdication of sovereign care. They prompt us to ask what happens in this no-man’s land where the sovereign has abandoned any pretence of pastoral duty. As this paper shows, such spaces shed light on specific forms of violence and harm, but also document the potential emergence of alternative ethics of care rooted in relational commitments, in intimacies of kinship and community.

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