JHI Circle of Fellows Spotlight—Jenna Barhoush

May 14, 2024 by Sonja Johnston

Jenna Barhoush is in fourth year completing a double major in Environmental Studies and Public Policy, and a minor in Critical Studies in Equity and Solidarity. Her experience at the University has made her realize her passion for writing about issues of political, social, and environmental injustices. Jenna hopes to pursue a future in research and justice advocacy by taking her education further with graduate school and law school. Jenna is one of our 2023-24 JHI Undergraduate Fellows.

What are your main research interests?

My research interests are in social justice studies, specifically as governed by environmental politics. I am interested in studying systems of oppression and the ways in which peoples resist injustice. I use an environmental justice lens for my research as it attends to the pressing ecological issues of today yet delves beyond the superficiality of the current global environmental discourse. While all cases of social and environmental justice intrigue me, I am most experienced with studying contemporary politics in the Levant.

What project are you working on at the JHI and why did you choose it?

My project is on the absence of the Palestinian through Israeli strategies of environmental manipulation. I look at the ways in which Israel has exploited the environmental discourse and accordingly altered the Palestinian environment to eliminate the Palestinian native and assert Israeli settler presence. I chose this project because I have worked with Palestinian farmers whose lands have been destroyed and manipulated by the State of Israel, yet have also been exposed to environmental science literature that applauds Israel’s efforts at ecological growth and climate change mitigation. This sparked my interest in researching the connection between the two projects—destroying Palestinian environments and developing Israeli forests—and their relation to the broader Israeli project of ethnic cleansing.

How has your JHI Fellowship experience been so far?

I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about fields beyond my own and engage in conversations with scholars at different points on their academic paths. I am particularly grateful to have spent time with the other undergraduate fellows with whom I have developed strong friendships. My overall JHI Fellowship experience has been very educational as well. Opportunities that involved presenting my project, developing it through conversations with other researchers, and exploring a wider variety of methodologies, have all prepared me—and made me more confident—for my next steps in graduate school.

Can you share something you read/watched/listened to recently that you enjoyed/were inspired by?

I recently watched The Teacher, by Farah Nabulsi, at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film follows the relationship of a teacher with his student as it evocatively portrays the simple yet tragic daily experience of Palestinians in the West Bank. While I did not particularly enjoy the events of the film due to their disturbing resemblance to reality, I was awed by Nabulsi’s ability to so accurately and emotively capture Palestinian life, and I was inspired by its message. The film also explores multiple levels of absence and nods to the exponential implications behind one form of environmental manipulation in Palestine.

What is a fun fact about you?

I’m a rock climber. I've been climbing for over 12 years, and my favourite ascent was in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan (it was actually featured in a project for National Geographic).