Anthropological Quarterly is a publication of

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   Institute for Ethnographic Research

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Volume 89, #1 • Winter 2016




The Work of Comparison: Israel/Palestine and Apartheid

Julie Peteet, University of Louisville

ABSTRACT—The comparison of apartheid with the 45-year Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and its guiding ideology, Zionism, has a genealogy situated in global and local politics as well as in scholarship. This article asks why the comparison emerged with vigor in the mid-1990s and early 2000s, and weighs its contemporary usefulness. What sort of work does the comparison do and what does it illuminate about the rule of modern colonial states? The article positions this comparison in an anthropological tradition, tracks its genealogy, and fleshes out various elements of comparison in states and societies constructed around the edifice of classification, distinction, and privilege. Central to human cognition and meaning-making, these classifications—Arab and Jew and Black and white—affected inequality and fueled a hierarchical social order pivoting around the designation of citizens and subjects, the configuration of space and the distribution of rights. [Keywords: comparative method, settler-colonialism, apartheid, Israel/Palestine]


Volume 89, #1

Winter 2016


To Bind and To Bound: Commensuration Across Boundries