Transnationalizing Infrastructural Power: Building Health Institutions in Palestine and Israel

Omri Tubi, Northwestern University

The concept ‘infrastructural power’ denotes the state’s ability to use its institutions to implement policies in society. Developed by Michael Mann, the concept gained popularity among scholars of the state in sociology and political science. While the concept is widely used and while sociology have seen a recent transnational turn, almost all of the analyses of infrastructural power, including by Mann himself, see it as operating within the territorial boundaries of the state. Examining the formation of Jewish-Zionist public health institutions in Palestine and Israel, I challenge the notion that infrastructural power is territorially bounded. Instead, I show that in this case infrastructural power developed out of a transnational process. Empirically, I show that American Jewish organizations working in Palestine and Israel developed country-wide networks of health services and medical facilities such as hospitals and clinics. Such services were politically critical for the Zionist project since they enabled Jewish immigration and colonization in the country. After developing those service-provision capacities, American Jewish organizations transferred the institutions they built to the Jewish political center in Palestine and later to the Israeli government, thus making them (proto-) state institutions. Concluding, I discuss this case’s implications for scholarship on the state and colonialism and consider other cases of transnational infrastructural development.

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 Presented in Session 70. Strategic Infrastructural Power