The visual terms of state violence in Israel/Palestine: An interview with Rebecca L. Stein

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<jats:p>This interview with media anthropologist, Rebecca L. Stein, conducted by Noa Levin and Andrew Fisher in Spring 2023, takes her recent book <jats:italic>Screenshots: State Violence on Camera in Israel and Palestine</jats:italic> (2021) as its starting point in order to explore issues of state violence and the militarization of social media in Israel/Palestine. This book marks the culmination of a decade-long research project into the camera dreams introduced by digital imaging technologies and the fraught histories of their disillusionment. Stein discusses the way her research has critically conceptualized the recent history of hopes invested in the digital image in this geopolitical context, by the occupier as much as the occupied, and charts the failures and mistakes, obstructions and appropriations that characterize the conflicted visual cultures of Israel/Palestine.</jats:p>





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Stein, Rebecca L, Noa Levin and Andrew Fisher (2023). The visual terms of state violence in Israel/Palestine: An interview with Rebecca L. Stein. Philosophy of Photography, 14(1). pp. 7–18. 10.1386/pop_00068_7 Retrieved from

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Rebecca L. Stein

Professor of Cultural Anthropology

My research studies linkages between cultural and political processes in Israel in relation to its military occupation and the history of Palestinian dispossession. I am the author of Screen Shots: State Violence on Camera in Israel and Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2021) on the politics of military occupation in the age of the global smartphone camera; Digital Militarism: Israel's Occupation in the Social Media Age (with Adi Kuntsman), on the militarization of social media in Israel; Itineraries in Conflict: Israelis, Palestinians, and the Political Lives of Tourism (Duke University Press, 2008) which considers the relationship between tourism, mobility politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and the co-editor of Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of Popular Culture (Duke University Press, 2005) with Ted Swedenburg and The Struggle for Sovereignty: Palestine and Israel, 1993-2005 with Joel Beinin (Stanford University Press, 2006). 

My most recent work has been a multi-book project about the ways that new communication technologies are meditating the everyday Israeli relationship to its military occupation -- including changing practices and logics of military 'counterinsurgency',  the everyday terms of soldiering, the Israeli civilian relationship to Palestinians under occupation, and the human rights work and anti-occupation activism. My first book within this project --Digital Militarism: Israel's Occupation in the Social Media Age (with Adi Kuntsman) -- studied the place of social media within this equation. My forthcoming book -- Screen Shots: State Violence on Camera in Israel and Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2021) considers the roles of digital photographic technologies and camera investments, with a focus on the multiple communities and institutions, across political divides, who have integrated networked image-making into their political toolbox: Palestinian and Israeli human rights workers and activists, Palestinian civilians living under occupation, the Israeli military, and the Jewish settler population.  All believed that the technological innovations of the digital age would deliver their images – and therein, their political message -- with greater fidelity (closer, faster, truer).  Most would be let down.  Screen Shots focuses on episodes of glitch and lapse in photographic practices, on curatorial and circulatory failures, arguing that the analytics of failure shines a new light on the changing terms of military occupation in the digital age, while pushing back against the recalcitrant techo-optimism that still frames much scholarship in this area. This project has been supported by grants from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Palestinian American Research Council, and the Trent Foundation.

Portions of this scholarship have appeared in Current AnthropologyCritical Inquiry, Anthropological Quarterly, Middle East Report, and the London Review of Books. My work on Israeli cultural politics has appeared in such journals as Public Culture, Social TextThe International Journal of Middle East Studies,Theory and Event, Journal of Palestine Studies, GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies and Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. 

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