Barren Structures

Barren Structures: The Problem of Sterility in the Age of Plenty

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Milking training at the Hanna Meisel Agricultural School for Women at Nahalal, Palestine, 1936. Source: Israel State Archives/Zoltan Kluger Image Collection/TS-3/10400.

This project focuses on the use of bodily waste, and more specifically urine, as the basis for producing fertile bodies in Palestine/Israel. Late nineteenth- and twentieth-century Christian and Jewish settlers attempted to design agricultural production according to the understanding that the Holy Land should be plentiful. Yet their persistence never fully paid off; in spite of all efforts to ensure that the land was abundant and bodies were productive, many of these bodies, both human and animal, turned out to be infertile. The project explores these failures and the search for solutions to problems of productivity and fertility in bodily wastes.

The study focuses on a group of physicians and sex hormone researchers who settled in Palestine after they were forced to leave Europe with the rise of Nazi rule. As this community of fertility experts grew, and while global attention turned to population control after World War II, infertility research flourished in British Palestine and Israel. As a result, urine began to flow between the farm and the clinic, between the lab and the parliament, and between elderly homes and pharmaceutical companies. The project explores the development of infertility research and treatments during the years 19331967 and the struggle to draw connections between fertility and environment construction.