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Who Is Imagining Palestine? A Study of Mediation Processes of Experts’ Knowledge (Foreign Architects and Planners) and its Effects on the Creative Sovereignty of Palestinian Spatial Expertise

Author Dorota KOZACZUK
Director of thesis Professor Riccardo Bocco
Co-director of thesis
Summary of thesis

This research proposes an investigation into spatial practices of foreign architects and planners in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. I compose a theoretical framework for the future research of Architects and Planners as experts in Palestine. In critical literature on planning presented is depicting the discipline as imposition, imperialism, orientalism (Said, 1994) or even dualism (Ferguson, 1999b). I propose a different reading where on the one hand the western experts (planners, architects) understand spatiality of the Middle East as an empty site, a spatial and institutional ‘tabula rasa’. I problematique thus raised calls for the issue of cultural encounter of foreign and local experts to be analyzed and retraced. I propose for the expert knowledge travels to be seen as translation process that on one hand involves writing up of the totality of the expert knowledge into a map, image or plan. While, on the other hand, the local experts hold the possibility of creative engagement and interpretation (Barber, 2007; Derrida, 2001) using local ‘grammar’ (local institutions, tool, knowledge, actors and materials to construct spaces).

Foreign architects and planners in Palestine are a model case study to test the possibility of creative and active engagement by the local experts with the planning maps and architectural drawings. Palestine has been subjected to various state building processes since The Oslo Peace Process and planning is recognized as an important part of their state formation efforts. Within the neoliberal state model envisaged for the Palesinians, many planning and architectural foreign initiatives entered and existed in the territories with the intention to 'empower' the Palestinians though workshops, participatory planning, or academic training. Second Palestine in Palestine there remains relative lack of institutions, lack of instructive planning and building laws and the lack of an agreed aesthetic discourse among Palestinians. For socio-historical reasons and the nature of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, the dispersed and fragmenting Palestinian culture, uncertain identity and weak institutions, the creative engagement with foreign expertise is inhibited.

The research proposes to conduct a Critical Discourse Analysis of images, maps, plans and planning documents produced in Palestine in the period from 1995 to today. It is intended to trace the agency and the processes of making maps, drawing and plans by various institutions and on theoretical level analyze power relations inscribed in those documents. In addition through participant observation I propose to examine the objective power relations in participatory planning and the architectural construction processes informed by the foreign expertise.

Administrative delay for the defence