Infrastructure and Logistics

On the iron cage: Infrastructural worlding in Mandate Palestine

Perhaps the most famous image of Palestinian life under the British (1917–1948) is that of the “iron cage.” Rashid Khalidi, the historian who coined the term in the context of Palestine, was referring to a political and military apparatus, operated by the British mandatory government, that constrained the Palestinian leadership to the point of rendering it incapable of taking any effective political action. This article holds on to the notion of the iron cage, but proposes to stretch its meanings in two directions. First, toward the material: the precise properties of the materials and technologies used in building modern Palestine had important consequences for the nature of the territory that emerged, as well as for the Arab–Israeli conflict with which Palestine, as a late-colonial territory, coevolved. The second direction in which the article extends Khalidi’s image is toward its Weberian meaning, as the upshot of the “formal, calculative rationality” of modern capitalism. In doing so, the article argues that the iron cage also operated as a material regime.

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Volume 40 Issue 6

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