Checkpoint Time: Helga Tawil-Souri

In Helga Tawil-Souri’s “Checkpoint Time”, she defines checkpoints as “material spaces made up of specific technologies and practices that engender particular embodied and territorial experiences that also exist in time.” In most cases, people pass through them because of work, but other primary reasons include doctor’s visits, family visits, and school attendance. These checkpoints signify the territorial control imposed on travelers by their governments: they are anticipatory strategies used to attempt to control the future through preemptive intervention. Tawil-Souri also includes a quote from Nasser Abourahme, who explains checkpoints as “the physical-architectual mark of the lived political trauma”. Because of their pervasiveness within the Palestinian experience, they have come to represent, both physically and metaphorically, the community’s plights, including difficulties crossing borders and a loss of temporality. Not only do these checkpoints mark different timezones, but they also subject different populations to distinct time regions: the process for Palestinians and Israelis is extremely different, elucidating the political power dynamic between the regions. While Israelis experience time and space within checkpoints in the fluid and modern sense, Palestinians face slowness and unpredictability each time they enter a checkpoint. This kind of power stems from their spatial and temporal ubiquity for Palestinians– they have been situated in such a way that at any given moment, another checkpoint could be around the corner. This has disrupted life for Palestinians in extreme ways: the unpredictable amounts of time it takes to get through checkpoints and their ubiquity have changed the ways in which Palestinians consider the control they have over their own time. For example, between 3 and 5 a.m., there are crowds of male laborers arriving early at the checkpoints because they never know the amount of time they will have to wait to get through them. This shows how their lives have become plagued with instability and unpredictability as a result of the Israeli checkpoints they must cross through. Films and literature have evoked this Palestinian identity through the tropes and metaphors of the checkpoints as roadblocks in the lives of these people. Not only have they disrupted lives on a day-to-day basis, but they have also elucidated important structures of colonial imposition and the way it treats groups they deem as lesser.


2 thoughts on “Checkpoint Time: Helga Tawil-Souri

  1. When i read this article I was struck by the imposition of time as a tool of occupation. You noted in your review that the Israeli’s experience checkpoint time fluidly, while the Palestinians are left in space-time which is slow and encumbered by the intrusions of the Israeli military. I felt that this was also reflective of a larger use of time as a weapon against Palestinian progress. This is because the Israelis use fluctuations in time (both time of day and time of month/year) to regulate the times their borders remain open and thus encumber Palestinians socially and economically (ex: a worker can’t support their family because they can’t get across the border to go to work).


  2. I feel like here in the United States and especially in California we may complain about bad traffic conditions, however we may take this for granted when compared to the checkpoints the people in these countries have to go to. Commuting to work, school, or appointments is stressful enough. It must be hard to plan accordingly to arrive to their destinations on time and I can only imagine this leads to a whole lot of wasted time and early arrivals. Time is an invaluable currency that seems to be easily taken away from the Palestinians. It is almost to the point of dehumanizing these people.


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