Accepted paper:

Olives in the family, olives on the land


Anne Meneley (Trent University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates how time, space and relatedness are embedded in contemporary political ecologies of olive oil in Palestine.

Paper long abstract:

This paper investigates how in Palestine the olive tree is understood as an actor, a kind of co-producer of its own care. There is a reciprocity between tree and farmer, an "ethics of care", which goes beyond material gain, co-generating productivity and well-being for both people and tree. Indeed, olive trees are often spoken of as kin, the older trees as grandparents and the younger ones as children, which one ought to treat with tenderness. Tawfik Canaan's (1927) rich ethnography stands witness to the erasure of prior meanings and practices enabled by the material qualities of olive oil by the threat of the disappearance of the substance itself, Palestinian olive oil, and particularly, the destruction of the trees that produce it and mark the land of the producers. To move from the fat, olive oil itself, to the tree from which it is produced is a logical transition as the land itself is under threat. Loss of oil indexes loss of land, and loss of the trees that produce the oil: in short, it indexes the contemporary plight of the Palestinians. Attention shifts from the oil to the tree. Palestinians who have their land confiscated, their trees uprooted or poisoned, lose a means of livelihood and also a means of accessing the sacred through engaging in offerings of olive oil for spiritual benefit. Under the current conditions of occupation dispossessed Palestinians become delinked from the sacred, their land, their food, and their fellow Palestinians.

panel Food005
Olive futures: ethnographies of a delicious kind