The Production of a Sacred Land

Barren Structures: The Problem of Sterility in the Production of a Sacred Land


Milking training at the Hanna Meisel Agricultural School for Women at Nahalal, Palestine, 1936. Source: Israel State Archives/Zoltan Kluger Image Collection/TS-3/10400.

This project focuses on the use of human waste, and more specifically urine, as the basis for producing fertile bodies in Palestine/Israel. Late 19th and 20th century Christian and Jewish settlers attempted to design agricultural production according to the understanding that the Holy Land should be plentiful. Yet their persistence never fully paid; in spite of all efforts to ensure that the land was abundant and bodies were productive, many of these bodies, of both humans and animals, turned out to be infertile. The project explores these failures, and the search for solutions to problems of productivity and fertility in bodily wastes.

The study focuses on a group of physicians and sex hormones researchers that settled in Palestine after they were forced to leave Europe with the rise of the Nazi rule. As this community of fertility experts grew, and while global attention turned to population control after World War II, infertility research flourished in British Palestine and Israel. As a result, urine began to flow between the farm and the clinic, between the lab and the parliament, and between elderly homes and pharmaceutical companies. The project seeks to explore the development of infertility research and treatments during the years 1933-1967, and the struggle to draw connections between fertility and environment construction.