Utopia, Palestine, and partition: Herbert Samuel’s An Unknown Land (1942)

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In this article Fordham examines the relation between, on the one hand, ‘An Unknown Land’ (1942), a moderately popular utopian fiction written by the Jewish Liberal politician, Herbert Samuel, and, on the other, Samuel’s involvement in British policy towards Palestine from World War I to the time of the Arab Uprising (1936-1939). Samuel had been the first High Commissioner of Palestine from 1922-1925 under the British Mandate, and had sympathies with Zionism. In the late 1930s, he resisted (successfully) the various plans proposed to partition Palestine into Jewish, Muslim and specifically British areas in the late 1930s. His resistance to partition, however, sits oddly alongside the fiction, in which the threat of sectarian civil war in Utopia is assuaged through a voluntary act of partition, agreed by all parties. Fordham argues that the contradiction does not signal any irony or satire against the condition of Utopia on Samuel’s part, but represents both a wish-fulfilment and Samuel’s Imperialist political unconscious in which Zionism is a means to an Imperialist end, and justified as a Utopian triumph of modernity over tradition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-71
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of European Popular Culture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016

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