In the conflict between Bedouin representatives and government authorities in the southern Israeli Negev, the term ‘insurgent building’ refers to the construction of buildings erected in the full expectation that they will be demolished by the Israeli police shortly thereafter. This article analyses how insurgent building is employed as a spatial practice by emerging political actors to claim contested Bedouin landownership. Importantly, insurgent building relies on the ability of media and advocacy organizations to mobilize behind the issue. Most of the relevant scholarship takes the interpretative categories advanced by these actors at face value. Following anthropological debates regarding objectification and categorization, I examine the context of a specific case of insurgent building. Emerging political actors who employ insurgent building often rely on predefined ethnic categories and clear-cut people–state polarities. This case demonstrates the need for a more differentiated understanding of multilayered local dynamics than the one offered by mainstream linear interpretations. At a more abstract level, political actors contribute to the reproduction of the very categories against which they mobilize.