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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



This thesis explores the politics of representing the assemblage of ancient manuscripts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls to popular audiences in Israel, the occupied West Bank, and the United States. I demonstrate that these objects of national heritage are circulated along transnational routes to maintain the legitimacy of nationalist discourse abroad. Three sites—the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Qumran National Park in the West Bank, and a travelling exhibit presented at the Boston Museum of Science—are examined for textual narrative, spatial arrangement, and visitor behavior. Analysis of these observations illuminates two recurring motifs common to all three sites: the restoration of an ancient ethno-national landscape (“land of Israel”) in the contemporary landscape of Palestine/Israel and the important legacy of ancient Jewish society in contemporary Israel and “the West.” These motifs and the way they are presented through a framing of cultural heritage can be associated with a larger nationalist discourse maintained by Israeli state authorities and mainstream media that perpetuates a linking of western liberal and Zionist ideologies. I contend that the transnational circulation of this nationalist heritage narrative works to legitimize—at a global scale—an ongoing Israeli program of occupation and settlement in Palestinian territory subsumed under the biblical/Zionist frame of the “land of Israel.” While making preliminary suggestions toward critical interventions, I also suggest that the analysis of transnational encounters with nationalist heritage merits deeper ethnographic investigation towards understanding its impact on individuals’ political (in)action towards the Israel/Palestine conflict.


First Advisor

Elizabeth S. Chilton

Second Advisor

Jane E. Anderson

Third Advisor

Michael O. Sugerman