University of Limerick
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Bodies, power, resistance: Palestinian women’s subjectivity and resistance in the occupied territories

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posted on 2022-10-07, 11:12 authored by Caitlin Ryan
Bodies, Power, Resistance is an examination of how Palestinian women in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) experience different subjectification as a result of continued Israeli occupation, and how they enact resistances to these processes of subjectification. This project starts from the argument that within the field of Critical Security Studies, insufficient attention is paid to how women’s daily lived experiences of subjectification. These daily-lived experiences can indicate how exercises of power aimed at securitising have the effect of creating subjects. Subjectification functions by creating subjects who are secure, (in this case Jewish citizens of Israel) and subjects who are (in)secure, (residents in the occupied Palestinian territories). In turn, subjects made (in)secure by these exercises of power will enact resistance to their subjectification. This project draws its theoretical foundations from Foucault’s model of power and resistance, and his theory of the dispositif, or ‘apparatus’ as well as how Butler, Delueze, and Agamben have expanded Foucault’s theories. In particular, when starting from the daily lived experiences of women, examinations of subjectification and resistance should examine how securitising practices are directed at gendered bodies to control and discipline subjects. In the case of Palestinian women in the occupied territories, subjectifications result from multiple elements, all of which together make up the broader apparatus of the Israeli occupation. Elements of the occupation such as the separation barrier or curfews function differently upon different Palestinian women, but share the common feature of being directed at the control, regulation and de-legitimising of Palestinians with the result of forming and subjugating Palestinians as de facto subjects of Israeli power. Taking inspiration from Foucault’s view that power and resistance can always be found together, Israeli practices that result in subjectification of Palestinians will necessarily be accompanied by Palestinian resistance. Therefore, when examining Palestinian women’s experiences of subjectification it is also essential to examine Palestinian women’s daily-lived experiences of resistance to that subjectification. Research for this project was conducted in the West Bank of the oPt, wherein I conducted narrative interviews with women. These narrative interviews enhance the project’s understanding of subjectifications and resistances as embedded in daily-lived experience. One element of the apparatus of Palestinian women’s resistance has been suicide bombing/martyrdom operations, which, I argue, demonstrate the embodied nature of resistance to an occupation aimed at corporeal control and regulation. The instances of suicide bombing/martyrdom operations form only one aspect of women’s resistance however, and should be analysed in tandem with other elements of women’s resistance. Resistances to subjectification, like exercises of power, occur on multiple different levels, through different tactics and in many locations. The project concludes by arguing that the experiences women have of subjectification and resistance illustrate most strongly that the continual insistence of traditional International Relations and Security Studies on the division between the ‘public’ worthy of inclusion in analysis and the relegation of ‘private’ to outside the realm of analysis is a fallacy at best.



  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Worth, Owen





Department or School

  • Politics & Public Administration

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