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The University of Southampton
The Parkes Institute

The Desert, the Island, and the Semiotics of Space in Israeli Culture Seminar

18:00 - 19:30
1 March 2022
Online Event

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Clodagh Owens at .

Event details

Part of the Parkes Institute research seminars series.

The desert, at once a symbolic landscape and physical space, has varied meanings in Jewish memory and in Israeli culture. The lecture tells the story of the changing perceptions of the desert in the Jewish society of Palestine from the early twentieth century to contemporary Israeli society, shedding light on tensions between the romantic-mythical associations that tie the desert with biblical times and its negative role within the Zionist settlement narrative and security discourse. Drawing on literary texts, newspaper articles, films, popular songs, tourist materials, posters, photographs, and cartoons, this study uses the desert and the “besieged island” trope to examine the complexities and contradictions that mark Israeli society’s semiotics of space and its relation to the Middle East. The lecture draws on Zerubavel’s book, Desert in the Promised Land , published by Stanford University Press (2019).

Speaker information

Yael Zerubavel , Rutgers University. is Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies & History and former Founding Director of the Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Study at Rutgers University. She has published extensively in the areas of collective memory and identity, national myths, war and trauma, and symbolic landscapes. Her work addresses the impact of nationalism, secularization, immigration and dislocation, the Holocaust, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the reshaping of Jewish memory and Israeli culture. Zerubavel is the author of the award-winning book, Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition (University of Chicago Press, 1995), and Desert in the Promised Land (Stanford University Press, 2019), and co-editor (with Amir Goldstein) of Tel Hai, 1920-2020: Between History and Memory (Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, 2020). She is currently working on another book entitled, Biblical Reenactments: The Performance of Antiquity in Israeli Culture. Zerubavel is the recipient of the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award of the Association for Israel Studies.

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