The rebirth of the 'natural worker': Racialization and class formation in Zionist agriculture*
Agriculture has always played a strategic, economic, and ideological role in the Zionist settler-colonial project, but – myth notwithstanding – the “self-labor” of Ashkenazi Jewish settler-pioneers has never sufficed to sustain it. In reality, the sector has successively mobilized the cheap labor of indigenous Palestinians, immigrant Mizrahi Jews and guestworkers from Thailand. In each case, the establishment of agrarian class relations and the racialization of farmworkers as “natural” or “idealistic,” dangerous or innocuous, have proceeded hand in hand. Building on fieldwork with Thai migrants, on the radical tradition and on anthropological theory, my talk will investigate how labor processes and racialized human types come to form a semiotic “bundle” in Zionist history and in the Israeli present.