Modernizing the Moshav: Israel's Sociological Management of Mizrahi Jewish Settlement, 1948-1967
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In an effort to understand the coupling of Palestinian displacement with Mizrahi settlement, this project examines the theories and practices developed by Israeli sociologists and land settlement planners to facilitate Mizrahi settlement within the nascent nation’s periphery. I address the confluence of sociological theory and Mizrahi settlement practice to examine the significance of social management to the production of Palestine’s racial settler capitalist landscape. I argue that this synthesis of sociological knowledge and settlement “expertise” laid the groundwork not only for the physical distribution of Mizrahi and Ashkenazi settlement in Palestine, but also for the emergence of Israel’s racialized settler-colonial regime within the territory of Palestine. In particular, I examine how theories and practices of Mizrahi social management emerged from the scholarship of the Hebrew University’s Department of Sociology, the settlement practices of the Jewish Agency’s Land Settlement Department, and their combined work within the Joint Council for Social Affairs. I am specifically interested in the project of Mizrahi “modernization”, a term that encapsulates a slew of social management efforts that sought to transform Mizrahi immigrants into productive Israeli agriculturalists. Israeli land settlement authorities drew on sociological findings not only to develop immigrants’ agricultural skillsets but also their adaptability to market-oriented production cycles, Western gender norms, and emerging Israeli ideas of national loyalty. Many of these changes were enacted through a program of “instructors”— extension workers who lived within Mizrahi agricultural communities, ostensibly to facilitate their assimilation. Throughout the work, I explore the confluence of modernization theories and settlement practices aimed at securing Mizrahi participation as a racialized agricultural class in the Zionist project of settling Palestine.
Mizrahi Jewish Settlement