Enactments of otherness and searching for a third space in the Palestine-Israel matrix


This article offers an exploration of the Third Space possibilities within the inter-subjective experience of Palestinians and Israelis. It explores the sociopolitical forces that constitute psychological threats to potential Third Spaces. We map the psychic structures that govern the relationship between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians, inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories. We will see how these relationships are fundamentally structured by asymmetries of power and subjectivity, resulting in closures of possibilities that could constitute a workable and genuinely reciprocal inter-subjective space of relatedness. As a result, their interaction is characterized by a series of what we term “enactments of otherness,” masterfully preemptive defensive processes that safeguard the object from further oppression and denigration. These enactments may arise from a “perverse” relationship between dominating and dominated subjects; however, they do not preclude the potential for creating radical alternative spaces and subjectivities from which Israelis and Palestinians can, together, co-create viable inter-subjectivities.

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    We use the term “Jewish Zionist” to connote the continuity between European Jewish settlers in Palestine prior to the formation of Israel in 1948 and Jewish Israeli citizens thereafter. It is also used to differentiate Jewish Israelis and their Palestinian Israeli counterparts.

  2. 2.

    See Lynne Layton’s (2010) incisive discussion on the theoretical history of the disavowal of truth in order to avoid “unpleasure.”

  3. 3.

    For a clinical example, both with respect to the personhood of the clinician and in a therapeutic dyad, see Sheehi, 2015.

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  5. 5.

    All authors’ translations.

  6. 6.

    While it would undoubtedly prove fruitful, the scope of our article also does not allow us to fully expound on the robust image/symbol of Arna-as-mother.


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Sheehi, L., Sheehi, S. Enactments of otherness and searching for a third space in the Palestine-Israel matrix. Psychoanal Cult Soc 21, 81–99 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1057/pcs.2015.66

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  • Palestine
  • Israel
  • enactment
  • third space
  • otherness
  • Buber