An anatomy of symbolic power: Israeli road-sign policy and the Palestinian minority

Liora Bigon, Amer Dahamshe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Perceived as mundane and experienced as mere informative images, innocent and undisputable, road signs can constitute part of a highly invested political strategy for producing a linguistic landscape. This is especially true in multiethnic or multinational states, such as Israel, where the linguistic landscape is being constituted in a contested context. The focus of this paper is on the visual and linguistic representations of Arabic and Hebrew toponyms in the Israeli road-sign system of the Galilee region. They will be examined in terms of positioning and organisation, landscape salience, and modes of transcript. Embracing Pierre Bourdieu's concept of 'symbolic power', our detailed analysis exposes the very anatomy of a bipartite rhetorical policy on the part of Israeli governmental agencies: on the one hand is spatial exclusion of the Palestinian memory through various visual and linguistic manipulations, tactics, and mechanisms at the expense of its own rich toponymic corpus. On the other, there is the establishment of the identity and related imagery of the Hebrew-speaking majority, which supports the Zionist project, regional consciousness, and spatial appropriation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)606-621
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Galilee
  • Israeli-Palestinian relations
  • Linguistic landscape
  • Road signs
  • Symbolic power
  • Toponymy


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