Dr. Nimrod Ben Zeev

Areas of specialization:

Palestinian Studies, Israel Studies, Modern Middle Eastern History

Areas of competence:

Labor History, History of the Body and the Senses, Political Economy, History of Race and Racism, Material Culture and the Built Environment, History of Colonialism


I am a historian of labor, political economy, the body, and material culture working on Palestine/Israel from the level of its built environment, post-imperial regional legacies and global flows of capital, people, and ideas.

Living with Ghosts, the two-part research agenda which I will be pursuing during my time as a Polonsky Academy Fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, revolves around three interrelated themes – the role of embodied experience and relationships between people, materials, and the environment in seemingly abstract processes such as nation building and the formation of communal boundaries; the social, cultural, and economic devaluation of certain forms of labor, knowledge, bodies, and lives through processes of racialization; and the political economies of colonization, nation building, and displacement.

Living with Ghosts’ first part, a book project provisionally titled Foundations of Inequality, is a history of construction work, the construction industry, political economy and racialization in twentieth-century Israel/Palestine. The research agenda’s second part, a further book project provisionally titled In the Presence of Absence, investigates how forced migrations shaped the economies, labor markets, and social relations of expelling societies in several former British colonies – in South Asia after the 1947 Partition, in Palestine/Israel after 1948, in Iraq after the expulsion of most of its Jewish community in the early 1950s, and in Cyprus beginning in the early 1960s.

I received my PhD from the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where I also obtained my MA in History, after having completed a BA in Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University. In addition to my role as a Polonsky Academy Fellow, I am a member of the editorial board of the Social History Workshop, a Hebrew-language public history blog published together with the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, which makes cutting edge research on the Middle East and beyond accessible to a wide readership.


“Palestine Along the Colour Line: Race, Colonialism, and Construction Labour, 1918-1948” Ethnic and Racial Studies, February 22, 2021 https://doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2021.1885723

“‘We Built this Country’: Palestinian Citizens of Israel in the Construction Industry, 1948–1973,” Jerusalem Quarterly 84 (Winter 2020) “We Built This Country”: Palestinian Citizens in Israel’s Construction Industry, 1948–73 | Institute for Palestine Studies (palestine-studies.org).

“Building to Survive: The Politics of Cement in Mandate Palestine,” Jerusalem Quarterly 79 (Autumn 2019): 39-62. https://www.palestine-studies.org/en/node/1643033.

“The Sound of Danger: Voice, Noise, and Risk in Construction Material Production in Early Twentieth Century Palestine,” in “Forum: Urban Progress as Noise,” International Journal for History, Culture and Modernity 7 (2019). DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/hcm.566