Sovereign Materialism: Workers, Wires and The Struggle for Jerusalem

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SMMAC Seminar

Speaker: Omar JABBARY SALAMANCA, FNRS research fellow, ULB/REPI-OMAM

Abstract: In July 1979, the four hundred employees of the Jerusalem Electricity Company (JEC) began the longest workers’ strike since the Israeli occupation in 1967. Owned by Palestinian municipalities and private shareholders, including workers, the company was one of the most important economic institutions in Jerusalem and the single largest industrial employer and union in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This paper introduces the history of the company, from its foundation during the Ottoman Empire and its transition through British and Jordanian occupations until its reckoning with Zionist settler colonialism. The story zeroes in on the coming together of workers and wires in post-1967 Palestine and how through such an encounter, electrification, a quintessential modern technology of empire, became anti-colonial matter. In doing so, it considers the political stakes that were involved in sustaining an electric struggle for sovereignty in the Jerusalem region.

Omar JABBARY SALAMANCA's research and teaching focus on histories, geographies and theories of political economy, political ecology, and science and technology studies in colonial contexts. He is also interested in global histories and archival practices of anti-colonial solidarity movements. He is currently completing a book on the contested development of colonial infrastructures in Palestine to be published by Verso Books.

Due to COVID’s restrictions, SMMAC will be organized both at the Maison des Sciences Humaines - Université Libre de Bruxelles (limited to 15 participants) and online. Registration by mail to is mandatory. 

Wednesday, October 14th from 12 to 2pm

Maison des Sciences humaines 

Université libre de Bruxelles

1 avenue Antoine Depage

1050 Bruxelles