Vague and unworkable: The fuzziness of the archipelago as a concept and its unsuitability as model for a 21st century Palestinian nation

Island Studies Journal
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Island Studies Journal
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While it is frequently invoked, the archipelago is such a vague concept that its deployment in fields such as island studies is only productive when the contingency of its use is specified. In this article, we examine the concept itself and then consider the use of the archipelago as a metaphor and/or model for a future Palestinian state. The creation of the modern nation-state of Israel in Palestine in 1948, various Israeli military actions, and (often related) public and private developments of former Palestinian lands has resulted in a substantial proportion of Palestinians fleeing to neighbouring countries (chiefly Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria). Those Palestinians who have remained have largely been confined to territorial isolates within the Jewish state. These isolates have frequently been understood and analogised as ‘islands’ within Israel, and the aggregation of these isolates has been variously referred to and/or represented as an archipelago. This article examines the development of this metaphoric interpretation of the Palestinian community within Israel in Anglophone, Arabic, and Francophone discourse, and characterises the contortions necessary to imagine Palestinian territories as archipelagic. The conclusion returns to consideration of the notion of the archipelago itself and of its usefulness in island studies and other contexts.
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