I have completed my PhD at the Joint PhD Program of History and Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University in 2016. My dissertation, Governing Property: The Politics of Ottoman Land Law and State-Making in Southern Palestine, 1850-1917, examines the processes of modern state-making in the Beersheba Ottoman frontier region of southern Palestine, known today as the “Negev,” between 1850 and 1917. By studying the development of landed property administration and governance in the relevant period, the dissertation provides a social and legal history account of the Beersheba region and narrates a “law in action” account of the local configurations and materialization of the Ottoman land law reform.
The dissertation takes as its premise the fact that the legal order and property regime was continuously made and remade through interactions of local and state property legal systems, as well as the legal performances of the local communities. The Beersheba case provides a different story than the conventional narrative of the growing hegemony of the modern state law over customary law or of modern private property over tribal property. Notions of private property both defined and documented evolved with the expansion of Bedouin cultivation from the eighteenth century onward. Further, the project exposes the agency of the local communities in using the new judicio-administrative venues for their own ends. Thus, state-society and center-periphery relationships need to be revisited by stepping away from the dichotomous model of juxtaposing tribal communities as living in an extra-state space or in isolation from nearby communities. As the research reveals, the inter-communal socio-economic networks and tribal agricultural activities require a more relational approach that would account for the historical nuances of state-making. Such an approach would challenge a number of hegemonic research categories including terms like “Bedouin,” “savagery,” “tribalism,” “autonomy,” and “nomadism.”
I am expanding my research to the British Mandate period and linking it to my previous research on the Israeli application of Ottoman and British law to Bedouin land claims in the Negev.