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Reviewed by:
  • Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation
  • James Conlon (bio)
Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation Eyal Weizman New York: Verso, 2007

Theory, practice, and space—there is a substantial bibliography of writings across the humanities and social sciences theorizing social complexity through geographic and architectural metaphors.1 Eyal Weizman uses a balance of the three to shape Hollow Land, a study of Israeli architecture after the 1967 occupation. But his work goes far beyond this metaphor. Weizman immediately opens the reader's understanding of architecture as not only the physical structures that sustain the Occupation but also "a conceptual way of understanding political issues as constructed realities" (6). From this position, Israeli generals and settlers may be counted as builders, just as one would expect planners and architects to be. Hollow Land is a study of the extension of Israeli power, not through the classical language of politics but in seemingly mundane spatial regimes as well as the explicit structures of control in the Occupied Territories.

When discussing the politics of archaeology, we often turn to the ideology of the nation-state as our entry point. This is for good reason. Historic monuments find their significance in their power to represent and codify a narrative of the past. These ideologies are even more crucial in the Occupied Territories, where archaeology provides a materiality to Biblical traditions, and in turn bolsters the claims of nationalists and settlers over contested land.2 To quote Setany Shami, it may be that our academic disciplines "work together to define, explain, enhance, and anchor the notion of modernity,"3 but it is our monuments that make these ideas tangible.4 (Upon visiting the Parthenon in 1903, Sigmund Freud wrote to his friend Romain Rolland in great excitement that "all this really does exist, just as we learnt at school.") Whether to give an ancient pedigree to new settlements or to drive the aesthetic of architectural and urban design, the use of heritage as a means to authenticate or legitimize is evident at various points in Hollow Land.)5 But there is also a particular instrumentality to heritage conservation and interpretation that Weizman documents with great clarity. For this reason alone the work is of interest to heritage conservators, but this is simply one point of entry to his encyclopedic work. [End Page 72]

Like the history of the conflict itself, the complexity and scale of Hollow Land is at times daunting. As Weizman explained to an audience at New York's Alwan Center for the Arts,6 he faced the same problems as his readers, so he approached his subject as an architect tackling a complex structure: he drew a section to establish a clearer view of its internal workings across multiple dimensions. This cut in turn explains the double pun of the book's title: as Weizman explained that evening, "Hollow Land" refers not only to the "Holy Land" but also to a three-dimensional "hologram" of the territories. While Weizman never directly refers to holography in Hollow Land, he employs the imagery throughout. His introduction likens his subject to the contemporary airport, with its multitiered organization of arrivals and departures, spaces of consumption, movements of bodies and information, and security bottlenecks. This is not just a clever turn of phrase when applied to the Occupied Territories. The control of space over three dimensions renders historical precedence, legal rulings, and even recognized borders ineffective in the face of Israeli territorial expansion. After all, what good is a mediated border if one does not control the airspace, entry points, or groundwater on one's side of it?7

Holography, then, is the structuring metaphor for the shape and design of the conflict and in turn the ordering logic of Weizman's text. The first chapters open deep beneath the surface level of the territories, analyzing the contest over the West Bank's vast aquifers. The text then moves up through the archaeological strata to the ground level to examine different appropriations of the remains of the past. Readers travel on through three-dimensional space, just above and below the surface of the Territories, among modernist building projects, mountaintop land grabs, the...


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