Cover of Elastic Empire by Lisa Bhungalia
Elastic Empire
Refashioning War through Aid in Palestine
Lisa Bhungalia


December 2023
288 pages.
from $28.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503634527
Paperback ISBN: 9781503637511
Ebook ISBN: 9781503637528

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Shortlisted the 2024 Palestine Book Awards, sponsored by the Middle East Monitor (MEMO).

The United States integrated counterterrorism mandates into its aid flows in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the early years of the global war on terror. Some two decades later, this securitized model of aid has become normalized across donor intervention in Palestine. Elastic Empire traces how foreign aid, on which much of the Palestinian population is dependent, has multiplied the sites and means through which Palestinian life is regulated, surveilled, and policed—this book tells the story of how aid has also become war.

Drawing on extensive research conducted in Palestine, Elastic Empire offers a novel accounting of the US security state. The US war chronicled here is not one of tanks, grenades, and guns, but a quieter one waged through the interlacing of aid and law. It emerges in the infrastructures of daily life—in a greenhouse and library, in the collection of personal information and mapping of land plots, in the halls of municipal councils and in local elections—and indelibly transfigures lives. Situated in a landscape where the lines between humanitarianism and the global war on terror are increasingly blurred, Elastic Empire reveals the shape-shifting nature of contemporary imperial formations, their realignments and reformulations, their haunted sites, and their obscured but intimate forms.

About the author

Lisa Bhungalia is Assistant Professor of Geography at Kent State University.

"Elastic Empire is an utterly brilliant piece of research. Lisa Bhungalia fluently and beautifully uses theoretical elaborations of plasticity and malleability of empire to show the interconnections between the aid industry and settler colonial and imperial violence."

—Laleh Khalili, author of Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies

"Into the well-studied terrain of contemporary Palestine and Israel, Lisa Bhungalia has produced a book of stunning originality. Through wide-ranging and incisive analysis, she explains how ever more highly securitized models of foreign aid adversely affect Palestinians. Aid, she argues, is war by other means."

—Lisa Hajjar, author of The War in Court: Inside the Long Fight against Torture

"Elastic Empire offers a riveting portrait of the quiet administration of violence. Lisa Bhungalia maps US shadow wars carried out through the daily work of aid and state terror in Palestine. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the intimacies of US empire and the topological tentacles of counterterrorism law."

—Alison Mountz, author of The Death of Asylum: Hidden Geographies of the Enforcement Archipelago