Ethnic cleansing and the formation of settler colonial geographies

Neve Gordon, Moriel Ram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Taking into account that ethnic cleansing not only undoes the legal and spatial formations within a given territory but also is a productive force aimed at securing and normalizing a new political order within a contested territory, we examine its impact on settler colonial geographies. We show that the relative completeness or incompleteness of ethnic cleansing helps shape the specific configuration of two intricately tied sites of social management - spatial reproduction and legal governance - within settler colonial regimes. We claim that complete ethnic cleansing produces a 'refined' form of settler colonialism resembling the colonial geographies of North America and Australia and is more readily normalized, while incomplete ethnic cleansing produces an 'intermediate' form of settler colonialism similar to the colonial regime in Rhodesia before the settlers lost power and is impossible to normalize due to a series of contradictions stemming from the presence of the 'indigenous other'. To uncover this less acknowledged feature of ethnic cleansing we compare two territories that were colonized by Israel during the 1967 War: the Syrian Golan Heights and the Palestinian West Bank.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-29
Number of pages10
JournalPolitical Geography
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • Colonial geography
  • Ethnic cleansing
  • Israel/Palestine
  • Settler colonialism
  • The Golan Heights
  • The West Bank

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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