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Legal Emotions: An Ethnography of Distrust and Fear in the Arab Districts of an Israeli City


  • Silvia Pasquetti

  • First and foremost, I would like to thank all the people who made my research in Lod possible. For their insightful comments on earlier versions of this article, I wish to thank Jesse Nissim, Gretchen Purser, and Loïc Wacquant. Special thanks to the LSR General Editors, Jon Goldberg-Hiller and David Johnson, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions. I am grateful to the UC Berkeley Center for Urban Ethnography graduate fellows and the participants in the 2010–2011 Berkeley Empirical Legal Studies Program for exciting early discussions of some of the ideas of this article. A previous version of this article was presented at the Abbasi Workshop on Politics and Livelihoods in Contemporary Middle Eastern Cities at Stanford University and at the Middle Eastern Studies Association Annual Meeting in 2010. This article is based on dissertation research funded by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, as well as the following institutions at UC Berkeley: the Department of Sociology, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Center for Race and Gender, and the Institute for International Studies. This article was written during a Research Fellowship at Clare Hall at the University of Cambridge, which I thank for its support.

Please direct all correspondence to Silvia Pasquetti, Clare Hall, Herschel Road, Cambridge CB3 9AL, UK; email:


Recent sociolegal scholarship has explored the role of emotions in lawmaking and policymaking on security and crime issues. This article extends this approach to the relationship between law enforcement and affect by addressing the role of policing and security agencies in the (re)production of long-term emotions, which bind a collective and fuel ethnonational division. An ethnography of the distinct emotional climate within the Arab districts of Lod, an Israeli city, shows that this climate is structured by two emotions: rampant distrust toward friends and neighbors, and intense fear of the Israeli authorities. This emotional climate is the product of the subterranean ties of Lod Palestinians with the Israeli security agencies as well as their experiences of the blurred line between state security and crime control enforcement. I embed the initial creation and relative stability of this emotional climate in the broader relationship between the Israeli state and its Palestinian citizens from 1948 to the present. The article concludes with a discussion of how the law enforcement's affective production has consequences for the salience and scope of citizenship and by arguing for a greater focus on the link between law enforcement, collective emotions, and processes of inclusion and exclusion.