Seeing and Unseeing Like a State: House Demolitions, Healthcare, and the Politics of Invisibility in Southern Israel
- Anthropological Quarterly
- George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research
- Volume 90, Number 1, Winter 2017
- pp. 55-82
- Additional Information
A 2005 amendment to Israel's Public Land Law and the 1994 National Health Insurance Law (NHIL) are two policies that highlight the complex relationship between the Israeli state and the Negev/Naqab Bedouins. While the Land Law sanctioned house demolitions and the erasure of Bedouin villages, the NHIL granted Bedouins access to healthcare and increased their visibility within the medical system. In this article, I draw on these contradictory policies of inclusion and exclusion to argue that the treatment of Negev/Naqab Bedouins as equal citizens within Israel is contingent on state officials' seeing only particular aspects of this community. Crucially, this means that state officials actively make invisible the unequal and exclusionary politics that marginalize Bedouin citizens. While the case of the Bedouins in Israel is a specific one, I suggest that attending to how state officials make particular individuals, communities, and histories invisible clarifies how states, both in Israel and beyond, maintain the state's ideology of equality despite a hierarchy of privilege. It is through the production of invisibility that neglect and exclusion come to be justified and obscured, and that themes of inclusion and democracy can be highlighted. Therefore, an analysis of the making of invisibility allows for an examination of the active production of the state and of citizenship, and provides a more complex understanding of the role of visibility in state practices.