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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Dr Noam Leshem

Associate Professor in the Department of Geography
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41911
Fax: +44 (0) 191 33 41801
Room number: 230

Contact Dr Noam Leshem (email at noam.leshem@durham.ac.uk)

Much of my research and writing is concerned with the intersection of violent conflict and cultural history. 

In my first book, Life After Ruin: The Struggles over Israel’s Depopulated Arab Spaces (Cambridge University Press, 2016) I sought a new approach to settler colonial space, beyond the erasure of native life and landscape. Breaking from conventional focus on explicit sites of violence and devastation, the book turns critical attention to ‘ordinary’ spaces and places where the Arab past continues to unsettle the social and political realities of the Jewish-Israeli present. Through the stories of often-overlooked places and the people who inhabit them, the book develops a more nuanced understanding of the processes that shape lived environments in the aftermath of violent conflict and mass depopulation.

I am currently working on a monograph documenting the cultural history of no-man’s land titled, Tales of Life in the Dead Zone. At its heart is an investigation of places subjected to extreme forms of abandonment and the radical abdication of sovereign care. Based on seven years of research in Colombia, Israel-Palestine, Cyprus, France and Sudan, the book is a first attempt at understanding no-man’s land as a space of contemporary political urgency, where sovereign carelessness is not an error or a failure, but systematic logic of governance. It documents the violence and harms experienced by those whose lives have been affected by these spaces, but also how no-man’s land become a complex refuge from the violence outside.

I am curious to find new ways to tell stories about scholarship and research. In collaboration with Google Arts and Culture we launched the Portraits of No-Man’s Land project, an online exhibition that combines immersive and visual storytelling. As part of the project, our team produced three Virtual Reality experiences that document the life of local communities in France, Cyprus and Colombia, the latter nominated for the 2019 Aesthetica Film Festival Award.

My research over the next few years will focus on decolonial practices of war testimony. It challenges the conventions of 20th century war witnessing that emerge out of either international law or psychoanalysis. Based on collaborative research with combatant groups in Colombia and Israel, this work highlights practices of war testimony that resist the confines of a universalised witnessing subject. 

I’m keen to work with research students interested in violent conflict and cultural history, war testimony and colonial space. Do get in touch if you want to share ideas. 

Research Groups

Research Interests

  • Colonial & Settler Colonial Space
  • Cultural and Political History
  • War and Violent Conflict

Selected Publications

Authored book

Book review

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Other (Digital/Visual Media)

  • Leshem, Noam Leshem, Noam Beyond the Wall: Writing Conflict and History in Jerusalem. 2012. 2012.

Show all publications

Related Links

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Conflict and resolution:
  • International: Defence & disputes:
  • Middle East:
  • Citizenship, state and governance:
  • Policy and politics:
  • Security, territory and boundaries:
  • Politicial, cultural, social history:

Selected Grants

  • 2019: ESRC IAA 2019 Festival of Social Science Event (£0.00 from ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics (INNOGEN))
  • 2018: IAA-Reliving No Man's Land: VR Technology and new experience of political science (£10765.00 from ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics (INNOGEN))
  • 2015: Nomansland to No Man's Land (£4000.00 from Royal Geographical Society)
  • 2014: Re-inhabiting No-Man's Land (£3640.00 from CBRL)

Supervises