This is an outdated version published on 2021-02-23. Read the most recent version.

One Map, Multiple Legends

Exposing Military Spatial Narratives in the Israeli Desert


  • Noa Roei Assistant Professor




This paper investigates the blurred borders between civilian and military ways of envisioning, experiencing and mediating space in the context of Israel political geography. It does so by way of a close reading of Detroit, a short video work by Amir Yatziv where the construction plans of an urban combat training facility in the Israeli desert are the focus of attention (2009). Taking Detroitas a point of departure, I will present a number of works of art that address the phenomenon in which a military-inflected construction of space yields material and cognitive consequences, naturalising the military’s status as the guiding principle of daily life. Within this sub-genre of critical city- and landscape imagery in Israeli art, Yatziv’s work stands out as it turns the focus from the land itself towards its mediation. This approach, I argue, is highly productive for critical anti-military visual projects, as it directs attention towards those who code and decode urban military landscapes, and highlights the fact that while the borders between military and civilian mediations of space may be blurred, they are not lost just yet.


Social geography; critical cartography; Israeli art; militarism, Israel-Palestine; simulacrum, maps and mapping.

Author Biography

Noa Roei, Assistant Professor

Noa Roei is assistant professor at the Department of Literary and Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam and a research fellow at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). For the academic year 2019–20 she is also a Marie Curie research fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS). Her book, Civic Aesthetics: Militarism, Israeli Art, and Visual Culture(Bloomsbury, 2016) addresses the multifaceted representations of militarism in contemporary Israeli art. Current research interests include politics and aesthetics; vision and visuality; performance theory; critical cartography and the (de)construction of national identity.


Abraham, Nabeel, Sally Howell and Andrew Shryock, eds. Arab Detroit 9/11: Life in the Terror Decade. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2011.

Alphen, Ernst van. "The Representation of Space and the Space of Representation." In Art in Mind: How Contemporary Images Shape Thought, 71-97. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Barthes, Roland. "The Reality Effect." In French Literary Theory Today, 11-17. Edited by Tzvetan Todorov. Translated by R. Carter. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Baudrillard, Jean. "The Precession of Simulacra." In Simulacra and Simulation, 1-42. Translated by Sheila F. Glaser. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1994.

Beck, John. "In and Out of the Box: Bashir Makhoul’s Forbidden City." Theory, Culture & Society 29, no. 7/1 (2012): 341-357.

Bier, Jess. Mapping Israel, Mapping Palestine: How Occupied Landscapes Shape Scientific Knowledge. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2017.

Bishop, Ryan. "The Threat of Space: A Discussion between Bashir Makhoul and Gordon Hon." Theory, Culture & Society 29, no. 7/8 (2012): 324-340.

Brownfield-Stein, Chava. "The Eyes of the State: The 'See-Shoot' Weapons System, Border Surveillance, and Nintendo Warfare." Res Militaris: European Journal of Military Studies, ERGOMAS 6 (March 2019): 1-14. Available online at

Buisseret, David. "Introduction." In Envisioning the City: Six Studies in Urban Cartography, ix-xiii. Edited by David Buisseret. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Cosgrove, Denis. "Carto-City." In Geography and Vision: Seeing, Imagining and Representing the World, 169-182. Londong and New York: I.B.Tauris, 2008.

Crampton, Jeremy W., and John Krygier. "An Introduction to Critical Cartography." ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 4, no. 1 (2006): 11–33.

Drucker, Johanna. Sweet Dreams: Contemporary Art and Complicity, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Foucault, Michel. "Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias." Translated by Jay Miskowiec. Diacritics 16, no. 1 (1986): 22–27.

Frohne, Ursula. "Expanstion of the Immersion Zone: Military Simulacra between Strategic Training and Trauma." In Immersion in the Visual Arts and Media, 215-248. Edited by Fabienne Liptay and Burcu Dogramaci. Amsterdam: Brill | Rodopi, 2016.

Giroux, Henry A. "War on Terror: The Militarising of Public Space and Culture in the United States." Third Text 18, no. 4 (2004): 211-221.

Graham, Stephen. "Countergeographies." In Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism, 349-385. London: Verso, 2011.

---. "Cities and the 'War on Terror'." International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 30, no. 2 (June 2006): 255-276.

---. "Remember Fallujah: Demonising Place, Constructing Atrocity." Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 23, no. 1 (2005): 1–10.

---. "Gaza is Everywhere." In Bashir Makhoul Aissa Deebi: Otherwise Occupied, 140-149. Edited by Ryan Bishop and Gordon Han. Jerusalem and Venice: Palestinian art Court – al hoash, 2013. Exhibition Catalogue, 55th Venice Biennial.

Hall, Peter, and Mark Tewdwr-Jones. "Planning, planners and plans." In Urban and Regional Planning, 1-10. New York and London: Routledge, 2011.

Harley, John B. "Deconstructing the Map." Cartographica 26 (1989): 1–20.

---. "Maps, Knowledge, and Power." In The Iconography of Landscape: Essays on the Symbolic Representation, Design and Use of Past Environments, 277-312. Edited by Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Harvey, David. "On planning the ideology of planning." In The Urbanization of Capital, 165-184. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.

Hon, Gordon. "Enter Ghost, Exit Ghost." In Bashir Makhoul: Enter Ghost, Exit Ghost, Curator Gordon Hon, 9-15. Beijing Yang Gallery, 2012.

Khoury, Nuha. "One Fine Curfew Day." Jerusalem:Miftah. available online at

Ljungberg, Christina. "Constructing New 'Realities': The Performative Function of Maps in Contemporary Fiction." In Representing Realities: Essays on American Literature, Art and Culture, 159-174. Edited by Beverly Maeder. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 2003.

Mitchell, W.J.T. Landscape and Power. Chicago: University of Chicago press, 2002.

---. "What do Pictures 'Really' Want?" October 77 (1996): 71-82.

Oren, Amiram. "Shadow Lands: The Use of Land Resources for Security Needs in Israel." Israel Studies 12, no. 1 (2007): 149–170.

Pinder, David. "Cartographies Unbound." Cultural Geographies 14, no. 3 (2007): 453–62.

Roei, Noa. "Looking Through Landscape." In Civic Aesthetics: Militarism, Israeli Art and Visual Culture, 65-90. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.

Sela, Rona. "Species of Memory: Notes on the Works of Roi Kuper, 1990-2001." In Roi Kuper - Citrus, Necropolis. Herzliya: Herzliya museum, 2001. Exhibition catalogue. Available online at

Tally, Robert T. "In the Deserts of Cartography: Building, Dwelling, Mapping." In The Map and the Territory, 599-608. Edited by Shyam Wuppuluri and Francisco A. Doria. New York: Springer, 2018.

Tzfadia, Erez. "Militarism and Space in Israel." Israeli Sociology 11, no. 2 (2010): 337–61.

van Herk, Aritha. "The Map’s Temptation or the Search for a Secret Book." Journal of Commonwealth Literature 31, no. 1 (1996): 129–36.

Weizman, Eyal. "Urban Warfare: Walking Through Walls." In Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation, 185-218. London: Verso, 2007.

---. "Frontier Architecture." In Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Chicago. Göttingen: Steidl Verlag, 2007. Exhibition catalogue. Available online at

---. "Walking Through Walls: Soldiers as Architects in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict." Radical Philosophy 136 (March-April 2006): 8-22.

Wood, Denis. "Map Art." Cartographic Perspectives 53 (2006): 5–14.

---. The Power of Maps. New York: Guilford Press, 1992.

Woodward, Rachel. "From Military Geography to Militarism’s Geographies: Disciplinary Engagements With the Geographies of Militarism and Military Activities." Progress in Human Geography 29, no. 6 (2005): 718–40.