THE Presence of the Absence: Indigenous Palestinian Urbanism in Israel

Naama Blatman*, Areej Sabbagh-Khoury

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This essay puts forward a theoretical framework for Palestinian Indigenous urbanism. It argues that the specific and diverse expressions of this urbanism are partly an outcome of the fact that Palestinian cities—as a modern urban form—predate the Zionist settler colonization of Palestine. We centre the longue durée of Palestinian urbanism as a constitutive mode for contemporary experiences of Palestinian citizens in Israel and link it to Israel's persistent attempts to erase the urban landscapes of Palestine, symbolically and materially. We discuss how the de-urbanization of Historic Palestinian cities in Israel since the beginning of the Nakba has drastically changed the urban and rural landscapes of these cities, ultimately leading Palestinians to adapt, develop and create new forms of urbanism in and around cities. Although Palestinians live in very different types of cities today, Palestinian urbanism broadly manifests as a presence of the absence, namely as the recursion of pre-1948 urban life. Thus, in this essay we provide a new lens through which to understand Indigenous urbanism as a recursive and relational anti-hegemonic structure that predates and can outlive settler-colonial violence.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)119-128
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Urban and Regional Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

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  • Indigeneity
  • Indigenous, de/urbanization
  • Israel/Palestine
  • Palestinian urbanism
  • settler colonialism


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