In the early 1990s, Israeli television began dedicating Memorial Day air time to videos produced by the grieving families of soldiers killed in the line of duty. When these videos first appeared during a period of growing Israeli discontent with the occupation of southern Lebanon, they were widely perceived as a challenge to the state, reclaiming the dead from Israel’s militaristic memory culture by resituating them in intimate domestic contexts via mediated commemorations.
By tracing an emerging private media system of freelance filmmaking, privatized television, state institutes of care, and grassroots campaigns, Laliv Melamed reveals how these videos nevertheless evade a fundamental critique of Israeli militarism, which is instead invited into the familiar space of the home. These intimate connections of memory and media exploit bonds of kinship and reshape larger relationships between the state and its citizens, enabling a collective disavowal of colonial violence. In Sovereign Intimacy, Laliv Melamed offers a poignant and critical view of the weaponization of home media and mourning in service of the neoliberal settler state.
Laliv Melamed is an assistant professor of film and media studies at the University of Groningen. She writes on governance, sentimental politics and the public sphere in nonfiction media and documentary. Melamed is the author of Sovereign Intimacy: Private Media and the Traces of Colonial Violence (University of California Press, 2023). In 2020, with the break of the pandemic, she launched a collaborative project titled Society for Sick Societies published by Social Text online, and co-edited Pandemic Media: Preliminary Notes Towards an Inventory (Meson Press, 2021). Her current research, focusing on military optics and aspects of state secrecy, is titled Optics of Opacity: The Cultural Imaginaries of Operative Images. In addition to her academic career, Melamed is a film programmer. She works for Docaviv Film Festival, and has curated programs for The Left Bank film club and Oberhausen Film Festival.