The Arid Lands: History, Power, Knowledge. Book Talk and Following Research


Co-Conveners: Miri Lavi-Neeman, Arava Institute and Orit Ben Zvi Assaraf, BGU

The Arid Lands is a history of our “knowledge” of deserts and drylands, in the MENA region, or in landscapes outside of the imperial core of global political economy. It is an impressive intellectual history of the science and management that have shaped our understanding of the arid lands, their representation, perceptions, and presentations as wastelands, and the desertification discourses tying them to colonial times. The book also raises significant questions about changing knowledge regimes and changing practices for living sustainably in the drylands of our planet and perhaps beyond.

Since the Publication of Diana K. Davis book in 2016, new scholarship in geography, anthropology, history, and environmental studies have emerged, and further explored some of the books arguments , relationships, and legacies regarding dessert ,desertification discourses, their understandings, and development practices, in Israel's and Palestine past and present.

Possible but not exclusive topics and lines of research are:

1) The role of knowledge, expertise, and science in shaping arid lands

2) How knowledge production is shaped by material and social conditions, and how, in turn, this shapes the material and social.(including gender relations, class and ethnic

identity and boundaries, national identities etc)

3) Environmental history and the origins of key ideas: such as desiccation theory, which linked deforestation with climate change and ultimately desertification.

4) Perspectives of arid land users themselves.

5) Indigenous knowledge

6) How do pastoralists view and experience land degradation

7) The relationship between “desiccation theory” and the “truth” of desert ecology

8) Practices and policies aimed to overcome aridity, and manage the landscapes, their peoples, and their cultural practices,

9) Efforts to “return” the desert to its “natural” Productive state via (among other things) privatization, forced sedentarism, and all sorts of astonishing projects of socio-ecological reengineering.

10) Ways in which we can restructure our relations with drylands (and in many cases, with their Indigenous and nonhuman residents)