Gary Fields (MCP ‘85, Ph.D. City & Regional Planning ‘01), College of Environmental Design alumnus and Associate Professor of Communication at the University of California, San Diego, recently published a book titled Enclosure: Palestinian Landscapes in a Historical Mirror (UC Press, 2017). Fields examines the dispossession of Palestinians from their land, and Israel’s rationale for seizing control of Palestinian land, in the contexts of a broad historical analysis of power and space and of an enduring discourse about land improvement.
Comparing the fragmented and partitioned landscape in Palestine to the landscapes of dispossession during the early modern enclosures in England and the Anglo-American colonial frontier, Fields argues that the seizure of Palestinian landed property by the state of Israel reflects an enduring territorial practice of enclosing land in which groups with territorial ambitions use power to gain control of land owned and used by other groups already anchored to the landscape.
Focusing on the English enclosures (which eradicated access to common land across the English countryside), Amerindian dispossession in colonial America, and Palestinian land loss, Fields shows how exclusionary landscapes have emerged across time and geography. Evidence that the same moral, legal, and cartographic arguments were used by enclosers of land in very different historical environments challenges Israel’s current claim that it is uniquely beleaguered. This comparative framework also helps readers in the United States and the United Kingdom understand the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the context of their own histories.
According to Fields, Enclosure was inspired by a longstanding discourse about property rights and entitlement to “empty” land, such groups seeking territory re-imagine the landscapes they covet as empty, and justify their takeover of these landscapes by referring to themselves as improvers of empty land.
You can read more about Enclosure and purchase the book here.