Alexandria Digital Research Library

West Bank Public Transportation : Movement as Politics

Griffin, Maryam Susan
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. Sociology
Degree Supervisor:
Avery F. Gordon
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Sociology, Middle Eastern studies, and Peace studies
Freedom of Movement
West Bank
Public Transportation
Dissertations, Academic and Online resources
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2015

West Bank Public Transportation: Movement as Politics is a study of mobility via public transportation as an important object of social struggle and the social mobilization that can result from creative engagements with transit. In Palestine, public transportation has and continues to be used as a way for Israeli occupation forces to impose social control on Palestinians. At the same time, Palestinians use transit in both intentionally political and quotidian ways to build connections and community despite the occupation's efforts to fragment Palestinian society. Against a shattered topography of walls, tunnels, gates, and checkpoints, transit becomes the stage on which battles for territorial sovereignty, social cohesion, dignity, and human rights play out.

While scholars have written about the structural impediments to Palestinian movement and the social fractures that result, they have not focused specifically on transit as a strategic instrument for state imposition of separation and grassroots efforts to connect. I contribute such a focus on public transportation as both my direct object of study--I examine its characteristics, structures, and usages as a system--and as a lens through which to better understand the changing economic, political, and racial nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Focusing on key episodes in the history of Palestine in which public transportation has played a significant role, I draw on critical theory, political sociology and social movements scholarship with international legal studies, cultural geography, and critical race theory. Based on ten months of mixed-methods fieldwork in Palestine, I present an analysis of the political dimensions of public transportation control and usage in the late Ottoman period (1892-1918), the British Mandate (1920-1948), the first Palestinian intifada (1987-1993), the Oslo years (1993-2000), the second Palestinian intifada (2000-2008), and the present-day West Bank. This socio-historical approach to the study highlights the value of transit for the imposition but also the bridging of geographic fragmentation in Palestine.

An examination of mobility through the specific lens of transit reveals a uniquely nuanced picture of the strengths of state power as well as the limits imposed on it by popular mobility. My findings indicate that transit has been a useful tool in furthering various colonial and national aspirations over the last 120 years, enabling some and undermining others based on who exerts or subverts control over transit and how they do so. I relate my findings to international law to illustrate the importance of the universal human right to freedom of movement for the functioning of everyday life, how that right is routinely violated, and the ways in which people register explicit and implicit demands for that right to be restored. Finally, I argue that any productive resolution to the colonial affliction of Palestinian life must prioritize the unfettered mobility of Palestinians across Palestine.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (237 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Maryam Griffin
Access: This item is restricted to on-campus access only. Please check our FAQs or contact UCSB Library staff if you need additional assistance.