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 uses the Black feminist reproductive justice framework as a transnational lens to examine the sexual and demographic politics of the Israeli state and their effects on Palestinian women’s reproductive rights, health, and decision-making. In so doing, Demographic Anxieties approaches Palestine as a generative site to theorize how in a settler colonial context, the making and management of gender, race, and space revolve around the reproductive body. The key intervention of this book is to show how the overlooked sites of “tender violence”- Israeli hospitals, fertility departments, maternity wards, and infrastructures of care - are foundational for the settler state to implement its sexual and demographic politics.

Demographic Anxieties argues that for Palestinians across Israel and Palestine, access to the symbolic and material resources needed to have children is not only limited by the spectacular and disastrous forms of Israeli violence, but is also crucially determined by quotidian forms of surveillance and “slow violence”. It illustrates how Israeli statecraft and its affective structures engender notions of security, belonging, respectability, or deservingness, and examines how these shape Israeli institutions, policies, and medical staff’s treatment of their Palestinian patients. Through its multi-disciplinary theoretical approach, drawing from Black feminist theory and decolonial Palestinian feminism, settler colonial studies, and medical sociology, Demographic Anxieties reveals the cumulative effect that various forms of spatial (im)mobilities, temporal foreclosures, and institutional racism have on Palestinian women’s everyday lives and health, their reproductive decision-making, pregnancy outcomes, and kin-work.