9/23 | Hagar Kotef

Home (and the ruins that remain)

An Inquiry into the Desires of Settler Colonialism

This talk examines the politics of “home” and the production of political belonging (both national and individual) amidst conditions of structural violence. Focusing on Israel/Palestine, I seek to understand how people develop attachments to spaces and places when these attachments themselves facilitate state violence. As the establishment of settler colonies rests on a primordial act of violence (genocide, mass-expulsion, or gradients in between), and since these regimes often depend on ongoing structural modes of violence to sustain themselves, thinking of “home” in colonial and post-colonial contexts is also an effort to understand the array of passions that are entangled with institutional, state violence.  Many critical examinations of narratives of past violence among perpetrators often focus on collective forms of blindness and denial. Underlying these critical efforts is the assumption that if political identity is to be established within ethical frameworks, violence must be imagined-away from national narratives (or at least be re-imagined as necessary – almost imposed upon those inflicting it). I seek to point, however, to a work of memory through which violence becomes not invisible but rather banal; through which violence is rendered an uncontested part of one’s political identity. Working through the history and contemporary articulations of this desire to violence I examine how a space is transformed to become a “home” and how home can emerge despite of—if not through—destruction.

Hagar Kotef is Senior Lecturer in Political Theory and Comparative Politics at SOAS, University of London. Her book Movement and the Ordering of Freedom (Duke University Press, 2015) examines the roles of mobility and immobility in the history of political thought and the structuring of political spaces. Ranging from the writings of Locke, Hobbes, and Mill to the sophisticated technologies of control that circumscribe the lives of Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank, it shows how concepts of freedom, security, and violence take form and find justification via different and differentiated regimes of movement. Currently, she works on the construction of political belonging in settler colonies. Her work has been published in various journals, including Political Theory, Antipode, Theory, Culture, and Society, Politics & Gender, and Signs, among others. Before joining SOAS, she held positions at the Minerva Humanities Center at Tel Aviv University, the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University, at Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley.