Mar 01 2022


1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

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

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).


  • Professor Yael Zerubavel is a 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 recipient of the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award of the Association for Israel Studies.
  • Professor Joachim Schlör is a Professor of Modern Jewish/non-Jewish Relations in History at the University of Southampton and will chair this event.

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  • Timezone: Europe/Paris
  • Date: Mar 01 2022
  • Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

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