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Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers


Israel; Palestine; Mandate Palestine; geographical imaginaries; land; legal geography


In recent years, there have been several calls for geographers to engage more closely with the normative in their work. This paper supplements those calls by suggesting that geographers turn their attention to popular understandings of and discourses about justice. In the first part of the paper, I make a case for such scholarship and argue that it should be undergirded by two premises. The first premise is that understandings of justice depend not only on abstract ideas about the just, but on the geographical and historical frames – geographical imaginaries – through which we understand the world; the second is that understandings of justice (including both abstract ideas and geographical imaginaries) are deeply historical and social. In the second part of this paper, I demonstrate the centrality of historical and social geographical imaginaries to assessments of justice by examining the discourse surrounding the controversial 1940 Land Transfer Regulations in Palestine. Put in place at the behest of British Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald, the Regulations restricted the areas in which Jews could buy land in Palestine. While Jews in Palestine condemned the Regulations as racially discriminatory, MacDonald defended them as necessary if the British were to fulfil the British Mandate Government's obligations to the Palestinians as well as to the Jews. A close look at the positions of each side reveals that their differences lay not in their abstract principles of justice but in the geographical imaginaries through which they viewed Palestine and the Palestinians.




This is an accepted manuscript of an article published in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 39(3) 2014: 345-359. htps://

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