Changing Israeli Landscapes: Buildings and the Uses of the Past

Essay Excerpt

A number of recent anthropological studies have sought to interpret the design of a building or an entire urban landscape within the context of a cultural system. Emphasizing such topics as shape and color or how space is conceived and organized, these studies explore relationships between the ways in which structures are crafted and their underlying cultural conceptions. To cite briefly several examples, Rabinow (1989) explains that the French redesign of Moroccan cities was conceived by an elite nurtured in 19th-century social theory and the spirit of colonial mission; Geertz (1989) shows how the new designs of dwellings in a Moroccan town became part of an intense political-cultural debate that resonated widely; and Kapferer (1988) suggests that Australian monumental structures can be seen to be expressions of a pervasive national mythology. The relationships indicated in these studies between physical structures and their cultural meanings are intriguing: styles of architecture, or several particular buildings, are portrayed as evocations of basic cultural processes. Thus, as Blier indicates in her finely detailed analysis of Batammaliba buildings and their builders, architecture becomes "a kind of script that can be read" (1987:10).

This article focuses on these themes - or, following Blier's phrasing, it examines two Israeli structures as if they were "scripts," and proceeds to "read them" within the unfolding contexts of Israeli society and culture (370). ...

Weingrod, Alex. "Changing Israeli Landscapes: Buildings and the Uses of the Past." Cultural Anthropology 8.3(1993): 370–387.

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