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Further details about Dr Bhungalia:

8 May 2024 - 8 May 2024

2:00PM - 4:00PM

Room W007, Geography West building, Durham City campus

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Dr. Lisa Bhungalia, will discuss her recent book “Elastic Empire: Refashioning War through Aid in Palestine” in conversation with Drs. Silvia Hassouna, Yaffa al Masri, and Léonie Newhouse.

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Elastic Empire: Refashioning War through Aid in Palestine  

Though the US-led “war on terror” has been ongoing for over two decades, it is a war that has been waged largely in the shadows – in the concealed spaces of black sites, extraordinary renditions, covert drone programs, secret global surveillance, and through expanding terrorism laws and security databases. Elastic Empire tracks a little-known but ever-expanding dimension of US counterterrorism warfare, one that travels in and through a growing body of US counterterrorism law that tethers to foreign aid flows and monetary transactions around the world. Drawing on over a decade of ethnographic fieldwork in Palestine, Elastic Empire traces how US counterterrorism law bundles and embeds in humanitarian and development aid flows inbound to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, transporting, in turn, Washington’s counterterrorism regime into the intimate spaces and interstices of Palestinian everyday life – in a greenhouse in Gaza, in a library in Bethlehem, in the collection of personal information and mapping of land plots, in the halls of municipal councils, and in local elections. Tracing the transnational operation of US law, this book demonstrates how US empire operates as a topological formation that projects security and war power through opaque arrangements and blended genres of rule—in this case contracted relationships of aid—that render Washington’s counterterrorism regime intimately embedded in the lifeworlds of those afar. More broadly, it suggests that a close analysis of the topological workings of the US security state in Palestine tells us something significant about the shape-shifting nature of imperial formations, their realignments and reformulations, their haunted sites, and their obscured but intimate forms.


Dr. Lisa Bhungalia is a political geographer researching late-modern war, law, empire, and transnational linkages between the US and Southwest Asian and North African region. Forthcoming from Stanford University Press, her book, Elastic Empire: Refashioning War through Aid in Palestine, examines the entanglements of aid, law, and war in Palestine with attention to the policing and surveillance regimes produced through the embedding of counterterrorism laws and infrastructures into civilian aid flows. She is also currently developing new research on the social lives of terrorism databases. Her research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, and Palestinian American Research Center, among other bodies, and her published work has appeared in Politics and Space, Political Geography, Geopolitics, Small Wars & Insurgencies, Society and Space, Environment and Planning A, Middle East Report, and Jadaliyya, among other venues.