This text explores the political use of family portraits in Assaf Shoshan’s Territoires de l’attente (Waiting Territories). Made along the geographical terrain of the Israeli state, Territoires de l’attente is a photographic series that features human-made landscapes associated with precarious living conditions created by the past or present interventions of armed forces. The series depicts sites that relate to the grand ideological and historical narrative shaped by the Israeli state about its establishment, its wars and treatment of the Arab residents who remained after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. In isolating these landscapes from the rest of the geographical terrain currently occupied by the Israeli state, Shoshan portrays them as sites whose physical conditions raise questions about Israel’s policies and attitude towards its non-Jewish inhabitants.
I argue that Territoires de l’attente’s underpinning concern for the circumstances and wellbeing of non-Jewish inhabitants is enhanced by three family portraits inserted into the series. They show Sudanese asylum seekers who recently fled their country and travelled to Israel as they believed the state of Israel might possibly offer them convenient means to start their lives anew. Depicted in compliance with the convention and visual vocabulary of family photography, I suggest that the asylum seekers’ performance, visualization and frequent transgression of the ideological trope of nuclear family kinship remind the viewers of the politics of ethnic exclusion that sustain the absolute rule of any nation-state. I therefore argue that these images do not only record another chapter in the history of nomadic and displaced populations in the region. Rather, they also echo the political forces that prepare individual subjects to endure the troubled existence imposed upon them in the name of any state.