Checkpoint Gazes


Checkpoint Gazes



Published in Acts of Citizenship, Engin F. Isin & Greg M. Nielsen, eds.

The checkpoint in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) provides a unique space for examining how technologies of gazing are utilized by military and civil actors alike. It also exposes the power of these gazes both as acts of security and as subversive acts of citizenship. Originally, the checkpoints in the OPT were constituted as binary places where military officials observed the occupied Palestinian population. Through introducing a counter-gaze, the women of the organization Machsom Watch (MW) have attempted to disrupt this binary constellation of 'powerful versus powerless'. Herein, I consider this counter-gaze as an act of citizenship, especially in that it transforms the political, social, and ethical consciousness of its actors, and perhaps also that of the other actors who operate in the space of the checkpoint. While the gaze of security and calculability looks to empty its object of agency, what happens when MW women gaze back at security, exposing an otherwise clandestine aspect of its existence as such? For example, when MW mothers and sisters counteract the panoptic gaze of the soldiers by seeing them as sons and brothers, does this counter-gaze rupture the habitus of security enacted in this place, or is it further absorbed into the contagion of power that these women seek to disrupt? One way or the other, the women of MW constitute a third party in the checkpoint scene, rather than the usual two parties - soldiers and Palestinians - that confront each other in this space. But what happens when other actors intervene, this time with a different gaze and agenda? How does the dynamic between these various actors create and subvert the meaning of the gaze as an act of citizenship? The following paragraphs briefly explore these questions. Ultimately, I suggest that the interactions between the various gazes produced in and by the checkpoints are not only important indicators but are also constitutive of the changing relationships between the actors that operate in this place, producing an increasingly complex set of hybrid gazes that constantly shift the power dynamics enacted in the checkpoint.

Publication Date



Zed Books



First Page


Last Page



checkpoints, Israel/Palestine border, panoptic gaze, MachsomWatch


Law | Law and Society

Checkpoint Gazes