Current Flow: An Interview

Ronen Shamir’s new book is a timely and thoughtful study of the electrification of Palestine in the early twentieth century. Current Flow: The Electrification of Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2013) makes use of Actor-Network Theory as a methodology to trace the processes involved in constructing a powerhouse and assembling an electric grid in 1920s Palestine. The book brilliantly shows how electrification “makes politics” rather than just transmitting it: under the auspices of British colonial government, the material processes of electrification produced and affirmed ethno-national distinctions like “Jews” and “Arabs” and the spaces they came to produce and inhabit in Palestine. The electric grid, here, “performs and enables (or disables) social formations through the physical connections it establishes and its attachments to other entities.”  The episteme of separatism and the roots of what would become a partition plan were born in this context, as Shamir shows. To listen to us talk about it for the New Books in STS podcast, head over here!