School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Dr Yair Wallach

Key information

School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics Reader in Israeli Studies Centre for Jewish Studies Chair School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics Departmental Director of Doctoral Studies Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies Member Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies Member Centre for Ottoman Studies Member
School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics
BSc (Jerusalem) MA (UEA) PhD (London)
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
+44(0) 20 7898 4337
Support hours
Tuesday 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Friday 10:00am - 11:00am


I am a social and cultural historian of modern Palestine/Israel, studying the entangled and relational histories of Jews and Palestinians. My work has focussed primarily on visual and material culture and on the urban fabric as sites and vehicles of contestation and transformation in late Ottoman and British Mandate Palestine. Before coming to SOAS, I was a post-doctoral research associate at Cambridge University, as part of the "Conflict in Cities" project.

My book, A City in Fragments: Urban Text in Modern Jerusalem (Stanford University Press, 2020), looked at Arabic and Hebrew texts in the urban environment, on placards, signs and artefacts, and showed how reading, writing and the very meaning of textuality changed between the 1850s and 1948. The book explores how street texts were used to write and re-write population and space; how long-established textual artefacts such as Islamic and Jewish stone inscriptions, Arabic gold-embroidered banners, and Hebrew pilgrims’ graffiti, were sidelined and sometimes banned. At the same time, new texts, such as street-name plates, shop signs and ID cards were introduced to organise the city in the service of colonialism, settler-colonialism, nationalism, and capitalism. The book won the Association for Jewish Studies’ Jordan Schnitzer Book Prize in 2022.

More recently, my research has moved to questions of migration, race and whiteness. In 2020-22 I was a Leverhulme Research Fellow, as I gathered material for my next book on the integration and acculturation of Jewish migrants from Central and Eastern Europe (Ashkenazim) in Arab society and culture in Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon in the 19th and 20th century. This research investigates the difference between migrants and settlers, and studies the manner in which the migrants were racialised (by themselves, the Arab society and by outsiders).

I have been studying British racialised approaches to Zionism and Jews, and the role they played in setting the Palestine Mandate. In an article in Racial and Ethnic Studies I argued that the partition framework as a “solution” for the Zionist-Arab, Palestinian-Israeli conflict, relied on a racial matrix that placed both (European) Jews and Arabs on Europe’s periphery as not-quite-white, and therefore as somewhat equivalent peoples. While the British supported Zionist colonisation in Palestine, they considered it a separate category from white settler enterprises elsewhere.

In addition to scholarly writing, I have also written on Israel/Palestine and on Antisemitism for the GuardianHaaretz, 972+, and other publications.

Research interests

Social and cultural history of modern Palestine/Israel; material, visual and urban culture; history of textuality; race and antisemitism; migration and settler colonialism in Jewish history

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Jens Augspurger The Politics of Spiritual Tourism: Kinship Romanticism and Correspondence with Imagined Homeland (Working title)
Julio Moreno Cirujano Looking like a state: Materiality and Aesthetics in British Mandate Palestine
Tariq Suleman Zionism and its Discourse in Indian Muslim Politics from 1917 to 1947
Ms Kim Jezabel Zinngrebe Defying 'the plan': intimate politics among Palestinian women in Israel


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