Book Project
Work in Progress

Demographic Anxieties: Bodies, Borders, and Reproductive Injustice in Israel/Palestine


Based on in-depth interviews and more than two years of ethnographic research with Israeli medical staff and Palestinian women undergoing fertility treatment in Israeli hospitals, this book takes the Palestinian case to spell out the conditions of a justice-based approach to reproduction and a right to family. Demographic Anxieties argues that for Palestinians in Israel, access to the symbolic and material resources needed to have children is not only limited by the ongoing process of Israeli settler colonialism – occupation, militarization, dispossession – but is also mediated by how Israeli demographic anxieties structure Palestinian everyday lives, reproductive decision-making, and kin-work. It demonstrates how the Israeli state’s demographic concerns engender notions of security, belonging, respectability, or deservingness, and examines how these, in turn, shape Israeli institutions, policies, and medical staff’s treatment of their Palestinian patients. This ethnography does not turn away from the overt structures of Israeli dominance but traces them in the overlooked sites of “tender violence”, infrastructures of care, and varying degrees of inclusion. While Israel presents its thriving medical sector and renowned fertility economy as humanitarian sites of co-existence, this book takes Israeli hospitals, and their fertility departments and maternity wards, as sites of inquiry into the governance of intimate everyday lives and, as such, as sites of settler colonial population control and Indigenous resistance.

Through its multi-disciplinary theoretical approach, drawing from Black feminist theory, feminist STS, and border studies, Demographic Anxieties contends that Israeli statecraft and its affective structures limit Palestinians’ reproductive rights and health across a variety of scales. The book’s chapters move from citizenship, infrastructure, and the hospital to intimacies, and carcerality. In each of these conceptual or material sites, it examines the encounter between Palestinian bodies and the borders set up to protect the Israeli state. In so doing, this book makes three distinct contributions: (1) Empirically, it uses the case of Israeli demographic anxieties and how they affect Palestinians’ everyday lives to think through a justice-based approach to reproduction, the provision of reproductive technology, and the right to family. (2) Theoretically, it introduces reproductive justice as a transnational lens and theorizes it across different sites in Israel/Palestine, including borders, law, policy, medical space, and affective economies. (3) Methodologically, it integrates reproductive justice as a critical research methodology. It examines how white innocence and ignorance are co-produced in the field and traces the ethnographic limits of doing research with marginalized populations at the intersection of entangled histories of oppression.