Situating nationalist discourses: Indexical aspects of Zionist colonial arguments

Chaim Noy

An interesting and rarely researched discursive feature concerns spatialization and localization of highly ideological discourses. This aspect is particular poignant with regards to hyper-nationalist and colonial arguments, which have spaces and places as their subjects. In line with recent advances in discourse analysis, specifically from within the subdiscipline of Linguistic Anthropology, this paper proposes an analysis of contemporary Israeli nationalist discourse(s) in terms of indexicality or the indexical order (Silverstein 2004). By addressing indexicality, the ways through which discourse(s) are grounded in particular concrete sites, i.e. how they are effectively contextualized, and the rhetoric of territorial claims are addressed. In order to authenticate ideological claims, utterers locate or situate the discourse they produce in concrete and spatial circumstances; discourse materializes and becomes related to the physical world. The paper draws on a corpus of utterances recorded in a visitor book, which is located in an Israeli war commemoration museum in Jerusalem. The visitor book is a unique discursive media, in which written discourse assumes a ritualistic and public state. Utterances expressed in and through this media amount to ideological acts of participation. The visitor book examined in this research holds some sixteen hundred utterances, and was compiled between July 2005 and July 2006. Approaching the public utterances therein in terms of their embeddedness and situatedness illuminates the pragmatic and embodied forces of hyper-nationalist, colonial discourses. Additionally, through exploring indexical and other means of contextualizing and grounding ideological claims, aspects of contemporary Zionist colonial epistemology are illuminated.

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