Mapping Exile and Return: Palestinian Dispossession and a Political Theology for a Shared Future

Alain Epp Weaver

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One of the most persistent, if vexing, issues is the state of affairs in the ancient land of Palestine. Palestinian Christians bear the enormous brunt of suffering and dispossession in the current situation and are burdened even more by the Christian political appropriation of Zionism.

Through an analysis of Palestinian refugee mapping practices for returning to their homeland, Alain Epp Weaver argues against the political theology embedded in Zionist cartographic practices that refuse and eliminate all evidence of co-existence, and offers a political theology of redrawing the territory compatible with a bi-national vision for a shared Palestinian-Israeli future.


“This beautifully conceived and beautifully written book ought to convince many Jews and many friends of the Jews that not only do they need Palestinian aspirations for justice not to be a threat to Jewish existence but even more, that it is only through the recognition of the claims of Palestinians and the seeking of justice for Palestine that a worthwhile Jewish existence can be secured for the future as well.”
—Daniel Boyarin
Hermann P. and Sophia Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture
University of California, Berkeley
“Like many modern technological advances, maps have significant origination in military needs dating back to the early years of euro-Christian colonialism and conquest. Yet maps are entirely artificial devices, mere representations of any actual terrain—and always created from particular perspectives to serve particular needs and all too often creating rigid but nevertheless artificial boundaries and borders. Alain Epp Weaver reminds us that maps have also come especially to serve a powerful political service to modern states, including the state of Israel in its claim to Palestinian lands. The power of this volume, however, is that Epp Weaver traces for us the use of mapping technologies as acts of resistance on the part of Palestinians, created from the perspective of exile. The result is a creative call for re-imagining the modernist notions of states, borders, and boundaries.”
Tink Tinker
Clifford Baldridge Professor of American Indian Cultures and Religious Traditions,
Iliff School of Theology
“Although Epp Weaver’s proposals will be resisted by those on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mapping Exile and Return will revitalize discussions about what it means for the people of God to live as exiles (as in ancient Israel) or as aliens and strangers (for the apostolic community), and whether there are implications and applications for especially Christian witness amidst the Middle Eastern realpolitik of our present time. The pages of this volume may even chart a viable political vision for the future—those who take up and read may be so inspired and will have new occasion to discern.”
Amos Yong
J. Rodman Williams Professor of Theology
Regent University
“In a field already saturated with textbooks, monographs and excellent research it is refreshing to encounter a highly original and novel perspective of the endless and hopeless story of Palestine. The theological cartography of the land in the land introduces the reader to the subterranean forces that shape the conflict on the land. Through theoretical probing of interpreting the past and envisaging the future, the book also offers a focused view on how its new paradigm is at work in one particular and illuminative case study. This is a hugely important scholarly intervention that would greatly assist those who are interested in, and care for, Palestine.”
Ilan Pappé
Professor of History and Director of the European Center for Palestine Studies
University of Exeter
“Maps and trees: good God—is it all about maps and trees? It is about maps and trees if Alain Epp Weaver’s brave and no doubt controversial reading of the Palestinian exile and return is close to being right. Agree or disagree with Epp Weaver, no one will come away from reading this book without a better understanding of the complex relationship between Israel and the Palestinians. But more important is that Epp Weaver’s philosophical and theological suggestions give one hope. I hope this book will be widely read by all sides of these difficult issues.”


Stanley Hauerwas

Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics

Duke Divinity School

“With theological sensitivity, Alain Epp Weaver unveils authentic Jewish sources beyond ideological Zionist readings of the purported binary of exile/return. Here a minority Christian voice enlists minority Jewish voices to open that polarity to reveal a 'shared future,' a future foreclosed by the current use of that polarity. Epp Weaver's study suggests new ways of living together in west Asia, imaginatively mining the psyche and resilience of Palestinians and Israeli Jews alike to replace violent binaries with fresh hope.”
David Burrell, C.S.C.
Hesburgh Chair of Theology and Philosophy emeritus
University of Notre Dame
“The right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes is in many ways the central issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Epp Weaver takes on this topic from the novel perspective of political theology. Examining a wide variety of cartographic imaginings of return demonstrates the vitality of practical thinking on this issue. It highlights the diversity and creativity of Palestinian Christian thinking on—and mapping of—return. This nuanced and moving book will be valuable to scholars and activists concerned with refugee rights and to all of those interested in theological conceptions of place, rights, and liberation.”
Amahl Bishara
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Tufts University

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