Grapes from Zion: Biblical Prophesy and Quality Wine in the West Bank


Friday, October 27, 2017, 12:00pm to 1:00pm


CMES, Rm 102, 38 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA 02138

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies presents

Ian McGonigleIan McGonigle
PhD candidate, CMES; research associate, Program on Science, Technology & Society, Harvard University

Wineries in the highly fraught West Bank area of Israel/Palestine are now producing high quality wine, but growing grapes and making wine are more than commercial viticulture; they are a way of reestablishing ancient Jewish winemaking practices and imagining a connection to biblical sites. This project, which lies at the intersection of the anthropology of nation building and the anthropology of science, asks how wine is important for Jewish culture, why building wineries on biblical sites is part of Jewish messianism, and how high-tech science is now being employed to make wines from so-called indigenous varietals. In the summer of 2017, McGonigle visited wineries in the West Bank and interviewed the winemakers to find out how winemaking is part of contemporary Zionism. Overall, he aims to tell the story of the West Bank settlement projects through the lens of wine making, tracking how wine production mediates a collective identity and reinforces a historical imaginary that underpins the modern nation state, and consequently naturalizes Jewish presence.

Ian McGonigle is a cultural anthropologist and research associate at the Program on Science, Technology, and Society at Harvard University, and a PhD candidate in Middle Eastern Studies and Anthropology. He specializes in contemporary Israeli society, with a focus on the relationship between biology and national identity. Ian earned a B.A. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from Trinity College Dublin (2007); he has a PhD in molecular neuroscience from the University of Cambridge (2010); and he received masters degrees in cultural- and social anthropology from the University of Chicago (2013) and Harvard University (2015). He is currently completing a dissertation on biobanking in Israel and Qatar that describes the consequences of precision medicine initiatives on ethnic and national identity. His current project is a cultural study of wine production in the West Bank area of Israel/Palestine.

Contact: Liz Flanagan