Law and Critique

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 243–264 | Cite as

From Cairo to Jerusalem: Law, Labour, Time and Catastrophe

  • Mai TahaEmail author


Following the eclectic itineraries of ‘Near East’ expert, R. M. Graves, this article tells a story of an ongoing Nakba (catastrophe) of small and large legal decisions. Without reducing the human catastrophe of the event of the Nakba (the 1948 Palestinian forced exodus), it engages with it as a legal event that crosses (in this story at least) from Cairo to Jerusalem, from the League of Nations’ era (1920–1946) to the United Nations’ era (1945–), from the governance of labour and gender, to labour partition, and finally to the governance of municipalities through law and expertise. Graves’ relationship to both Cairo and Jerusalem was materialized through different forms of affective legal governance. Graves, who in his own dichotomous words was ‘neither a Zionist nor an anti-Semite’, managed Jerusalem across national lines in the wake of the UN Partition Plan (1947), and as the old empire was withdrawing right before Jerusalem itself became a site of the catastrophe—right before the Nakba.


Catastrophe Colonialism Egypt Labour Palestine Partition The League of Nations 



I would like to thank participants at the Critical Legal Conference at Warwick Law School (2017), the Law and Society Association Conference in Toronto (2018), and colleagues who participated in the Law Department Faculty Workshop at the American University in Cairo (2018) for their generous engagement and feedback. I presented parts of this article at the ReVisions International Law Seminar (2019) at the University of Glasgow. Thanks to all those who participated, especially Charlie Peevers for her valuable reflections, and for the invitation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law DepartmentAmerican University in CairoCairoEgypt

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