Itineraries in Conflict

Israelis, Palestinians, and the Political Lives of Tourism

Itineraries in Conflict

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: 23 b&w photos, 3 maps Published: August 2008

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Middle East Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Postcolonial Theory

In Itineraries in Conflict, Rebecca L. Stein argues that through tourist practices—acts of cultural consumption, routes and imaginary voyages to neighboring Arab countries, culinary desires—Israeli citizens are negotiating Israel’s changing place in the contemporary Middle East. Drawing on ethnographic and archival research conducted throughout the last decade, Stein analyzes the divergent meanings that Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel have attached to tourist cultures, and she considers their resonance with histories of travel in Israel, its Occupied Territories, and pre-1948 Palestine. Stein argues that tourism’s cultural performances, spaces, souvenirs, and maps have provided Israelis in varying social locations with a set of malleable tools to contend with the political changes of the last decade: the rise and fall of a Middle East Peace Process (the Oslo Process), globalization and neoliberal reform, and a second Palestinian uprising in 2000.

Combining vivid ethnographic detail, postcolonial theory, and readings of Israeli and Palestinian popular texts, Stein considers a broad range of Israeli leisure cultures of the Oslo period with a focus on the Jewish desires for Arab things, landscapes, and people that regional diplomacy catalyzed. Moving beyond conventional accounts, she situates tourism within a broader field of “discrepant mobility,” foregrounding the relationship between histories of mobility and immobility, leisure and exile, consumption and militarism. She contends that the study of Israeli tourism must open into broader interrogations of the Israeli occupation, the history of Palestinian dispossession, and Israel’s future in the Arab Middle East. Itineraries in Conflict is both a cultural history of the Oslo process and a call to fellow scholars to rethink the contours of the Arab-Israeli conflict by considering the politics of popular culture in everyday Israeli and Palestinian lives.


Itineraries in Conflict is a wonderful book that strikes an impressive balance between ethnographic specificity and broader regional and cross-regional claims. Theoretically sophisticated and written with great elegance and clarity, Stein’s book is indeed one potential model for contemporary anthropology, precisely for its careful methodological and analytical concern with historical and regional processes that are not strictly local yet are based on various forms of ethnographic knowledge.” — Johan Lindquist, American Anthropologist

Itineraries in Conflict is a very well-written ethnography about Israeli-Jewish tourism and leisure practices and their relations to Arab spaces and Arab culture. . . . [T]his book provides many fascinating insights that will be of value to scholars and students interested in the cultural aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” — Amos S. Ron, Journal of Israeli History

Itineraries in Conflict is an elegant, path-breaking excursion into a hitherto underexplored dimension of Israeli society during an era of difficult transformations.” — Waleed Hazbun, Shofar

Itineraries in Conflict turns a welcome spotlight on the everyday practices often overlooked in the focus on the macro-politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Stein shows how tourism and consumption can become clarifying mirrors of socio-political processes; she raises questions and lays some important foundations for a future political ethnography of Israeli tourism that will place these insights in a broader historical and sociological context.” — Jackie Feldman, Review of Middle East Studies

“[Itineraries in Conflict] reveals numerous examples of how tourism is utilized as a vehicle in the post-Oslo period, rationalizing past policies, glossing current attitudes, and in many instances, drawing together the relationship that Jewish Israelis historically see (and fear) between the Arabs without, and those within. In this way, Stein reveals the multiple layers that comprise Israel and the Middle East, and the simultaneously existing geographies, countermapped upon the same spaces, and yet, which conflict and vie for recognition, acceptance and validation. . . . [T]his volume beautifully addresses what is, after all, at the center of Israel’s very existence today: the ability of its Jewish citizens to pursue lives of leisure and ‘normalcy’ as if the past never occurred, let alone, as if the present is a mere distraction.” — Steven C. Dinero, Digest of Middle East Studies

“[A] groundbreaking work. . . . Stein provides the reader with a powerful and insightful analysis of the cultural forms and practices through which a shifting geographic imaginary comes to be instantiated within Israeli public life. This is a work of exceptional merit and deserves to be widely read.” — Charles Hirschkind, American Ethnologist

“[The book] makes seminal contributions to at least three distinct anthropological fields: war, nationalism, and tourism. . . . Itineraries in Conflict is a very carefully written and scholarly work, of interest as much to generalists as to specialists in the subjects and geographical areas covered.” — Tom Selwyn, Journal of Palestine Studies

“In Itineraries in Conflict, Rebecca Stein writes a thoughtfully compelling ethnography of Israeli tourist practices from the Oslo Accords of 1993 to the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000. . . . Although Stein’s Itineraries in Conflict project is explicitly political—it is essentially a critique of the colonial relationship between Israel and Palestine, growing from her involvement in the Israeli peace movement for social justice—its tone remains straightforward yet subtle, showing the care in which her arguments are formed. . . . Stein’s ability to convey thought-provoking details in a constructive way—rather than a feeling of bleakness or anger—is no small feat.” — Lisa Ruth Brunner, Environment and Planning D

“Stein shows that the practices and discourses of tourism offer critical insights into how Israeli national identity was reimagined during the height of the ‘peace process.’ . . . . [Itineraries in Conflict] should give a significant boost to the status of tourism studies within Middle East studies.” — Ted Swedenburg H-Levant, H-Net Reviews

“The book’s ethnography is fascinating. . . . Stein’s book reveals much of the everyday practices and desires of Israelis committed to Zionism to varying degrees; and it does so subtly and thoughtfully.” — Laleh Khalili, Times Higher Education

“This is an intelligent and exciting book that maps the post-Oslo extension of Israeli tourism into the Arab world. . . . Stein shows through a theoretically sophisticated and politically informed analysis that Israeli tourism after Oslo (and before the al-Aqsa intifada) produced a fantasy version of the Middle East for Israelis. . . .” — Glenn Bowman, Middle East Journal

“What shines through in this book, indeed, is Stein’s optimism, which, far from being romantic or dreamy, emerges out of a sober and well-crafted socio-political analysis. . . . Itineraries in Conflict stands out in its commitment not only to documenting the present predicaments of Israel-Palestine, but also to thinking through these predicaments and the often paradoxical possibilities they open for setting the political reality on a different trajectory.” — Gil Z. Hochberg, Middle East Report

Itineraries in Conflict is a subtly devastating book. Deftly weaving Jewish Israeli tourist practices into the wake of the Oslo Process, Rebecca L. Stein demonstrates how political orders sediment into personal tastes, social identities, and regional desires. By showing how drinking coffee might be an act of peace or a theater of war, this book marks an ambitious new itinerary for the study of consumption, tourism, and nationalism.” — Elizabeth A. Povinelli, author of The Empire of Love: Toward a Theory of Intimacy, Genealogy, and Carnality

“A remarkable ethnography. In this lyrical study, Rebecca L. Stein dissects the histories, economic realities, and state practices underlying Israeli tourism into Palestinian areas. She evokes the political longings that animate such tourism while never forgetting the dense histories of power that structure its logics. Impressive in its originality, Stein’s riveting challenge to simplistic assumptions about Israeli and Palestinian politics is ultimately an incitement to hope.” — Melani McAlister, author of Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East, 1945–2000

“An enormously important book. While Rebecca L. Stein’s work contributes to a growing literature on the technologies and discourses of Zionist domination, both historical and contemporary, it stands out for its brilliant and subtle account of the post-Oslo construction of the Israeli Jewish ‘desire for the Arab.’ Her analysis of the making of Palestinian people, spaces, and activities into sites of Jewish tourism is careful, compelling, and disturbing.” — Wendy Brown, author of Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Rebecca L. Stein is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies at Duke University. She is a co-editor of Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of Popular Culture, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Itineraries and Intelligibilities 1

1. Regional Routes: Israeli Tourists in the New Middle East 19

2. Consumer Coexistence: Enjoying the Arabas Within 45

3. Scalar Fantasies: The Israeli State and the Production of Palestinian Space 71

4. Culinary Patriotism: Ethnic Restaurants and Melancholic Citizenship 97

5. Of Cafes and Terror 129

Postscript: Oslo's Ghosts 149

Notes 153

Bibliography 179

Index 205
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4273-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4251-9
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