Palestine Scholarship at Social Text

Nicholas Mirzoeff, To See in the Dark: The Nakba and the Landswept Way of Seeing

Social Text 41.3, September 2023

Abstract: Seeing with Palestine was a constitutive possibility in the anticolonial way of seeing from the moment of the Nakba, meaning “catastrophe,” the destruction of Palestinian society in 1948. This article traces this way of seeing in the genealogy of visual culture that emerged in Britain in dialogue with Black British cultural studies and art practice, based on the practices of Stuart Hall, George Lamming, John Berger, and Jean Mohr. It then discusses Palestinian artist Randa Maddah, whose work Berger described as “landswept.” The conclusion speculates on how to “see in the dark” via the Palestinian artists Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou Rahme.


Meryem Kamil, Postspatial, Postcolonial: Accessing Palestine in the Digital

Social Text 38.3, September 2020

Abstract: This article centers two new media projects that imagine Palestinian decolonization, given the occupation of Palestinian land: news site Al Jazeera English’s 360-degree video tour of al-Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem and Palestinian grassroots organization Udna’s three-dimensional rendering of destroyed village Mi’ar. These digital texts reimagine Palestinian access to land as a community-driven and intergenerational project. In this analysis, access is formulated as a term that invokes the following: new-media analyses of the digital divide (or differential resources for obtaining new media across lines of race, nation, gender, etc.); disability studies’ notions of access as intimately tied to political power and infrastructure; and postcolonial studies’ criticisms of colonial access in tourism and resource extraction of the global South. The article brings together these discursive nodes to formulate an understanding of space that imagines decolonial futurity. This future-oriented political practice works toward a vision of Palestine determined by Palestinians, as opposed to limiting pragmatic wars of maneuver. This inquiry therefore is centrally concerned with the ways activists for Palestine employ immersive digital media to formulate and work toward an attachment to decolonial futurity that is both practical and utopian.


Sonali Thakkar, The Reeducation of Race: From UNESCO’s 1950 Statement on Race to the Postcolonial Critique of Plasticity

Social Text 38.2, June 2020

Abstract: This article traces the emergence of racial plasticity in the discourse of midcentury liberal internationalism and antiracism, focusing on the 1950 Statement on Race by the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The author argues that the statement is both an important precursor to contemporary celebrations of plasticity and an object lesson in the conceptual and political limitations of plasticity as a response to race and racism. Paying particular attention to the statement’s treatment of plasticity as synonymous with educability, the author argues that plasticity’s centrality to the race concept at midcentury was driven by a pedagogical aspiration to make not just racial ideologies but racial form itself subject to reeducation. In UNESCO’s discourse, plasticity, or the idea that race is changeable and malleable, represents both the promise of freedom from race and a biopolitical imperative. Even as UNESCO sought to dispel the scientific racism it associated most closely with Nazism, the statement’s privileging of plasticity accommodated and extended strategies of colonial racial management. While UNESCO’s antiracism found it easier to imagine an end to race than to imagine that racism could be contested in political terms, anticolonial politics challenged both the colonial ordering of the world and the biopolitical logic of racial plasticity.


Hamzah Baig, “Spirit in Opposition”: Malcolm X and the Question of Palestine

Social Text 37.3, September 2019

Abstract: Contemporary political events in Palestine and the United States have drawn renewed interest in the long history of militant Black-Palestinian solidarity. Although many historical accounts typically begin in the post-1967 Arab-Israeli War moment with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panthers in Algiers, this article traces a foundational period of Black radical coalition building with Palestine through Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. In doing so, it privileges systems of intergenerational exchange and emphasizes the ways in which broader political developments, from Egyptian anti-imperialism to the birth of the Third World project, helped establish the basis for the Black Power movement’s identification with Palestine. The article argues that the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X’s border crossing and concomitant efforts to forge ties with Arab-world liberation movements explicitly rendered Palestine a referent of the Black Radical Tradition.


Thomas Abowd, Edward Said’s Home, Martin Buber’s Mailbox: The “Terrible Silences” of Israeli Colonial Jerusalem

Social Text 37.3, September 2019

Abstract: This article examines the primary means by which Israeli settler colonialism has appropriated and reconfigured Jerusalem since 1948—discursively no less than physically. It analyzes how the Jewish state, building on the colonial suppositions and discourses of the pre-1948 Zionist movement, has sought to efface Palestinian attachments to and histories in this contested urban realm. This piece foregrounds the life and works of Jewish Israeli philosopher Martin Buber and the binationalist, antistatist politics he sought to build in Palestine with the indigenous Arab populations before the creation of Israel in 1948. However, it also offers a critique of the ways in which even Buber and other Zionist binationalists’ dovish political positions were implicated in settler colonialism and the displacement and erasure of the Palestinians. The article details some of the ways in which the mobilization of presence and absence has been crucial to Israel’s colonization of Jerusalem and how they have been utilized in the service of the state’s drive for exclusive control over this symbolically potent city. This is done, principally, through a reading of the Palestinian house in Jerusalem in which Buber resided during his first four years in the country: the family home of Palestinian scholar and activist Edward Said. This article explores the relationship between the exiled intellectual, Said, and this structure, commandeered by Zionist forces in 1948. This article also explores some of Said’s views on colonial landscapes and binationalist futures for Israelis and Palestinians.


Emily Drumsta and Keith P. Feldman, We Deportees: Race, Religion, and War on Palestine’s No-Man’s-Land 

Social Text 34.4, December 2016

Abstract: This article addresses a critical inflection point in the history of the long War on Terror: Israel’s 1992 deportation of over four hundred Palestinians to the “no-man’s-land” between Israel and Lebanon, and the camp that the deportees fashioned for the better part of one year to contest the legitimacy of Israeli colonialism and demand their return. The deportation—meant to incapacitate Islamic militant resistance to the US-brokered peace process between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization—paradoxically provided the conditions of possibility for conversation and collaboration among attorneys, doctors, professors, university students, and imams, which had heretofore been highly restricted and regulated by Israel’s carceral practices in the West Bank and Gaza. The deportees—those who in Giorgio Agamben’s estimation had been literally abandoned in a zone of indistinction—engaged in a political practice of “habitational resistance,” refusing their conversion into homines sacri by performing instead a mode of life that rendered multiple lines of transterritorial affiliation, self-assertion, and continuity. The deportees’ published archive—poetry, photobooks, autoethnographies—is understood as a technology of mediation that operates beyond the bounds of the prevailing Islamophobic and orientalist frames while also addressing Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. The case of the deportees thus illuminates the articulation of race, religion, and war as it rubs against the linkage between settler colonial dispossession and the Westphalian trinity of nation, state, and territory.


Alex Trimble Young, The Settler Unchained: Constituent Power and Settler Violence 

Social Text 33.3, September 2015

Abstract: This article argues that the phrase “monopoly of violence,” which circulates in so many contemporary academic critiques of the liberal state, is not adequate to describe the nature of violence deployed by settler colonial societies against indigenous and racialized bodies. Settler colonialism depends on a mode of popular sovereignty that serves primarily as a diffusion of the necropolitical power of the colonizing polity rather than as a check on the tyranny of the state. Through a consideration of an assemblage of unlikely contemporary objects—Glenn Beck’s 2013 keynote address to the National Rifle Association, Antonio Negri’s monograph Insurgencies: Constituent Power and the Modern State, and Quentin Tarantino’s film Django Unchained—it explores how European and Euro-American imaginings of constituent power can serve to reinforce settler colonial political traditions rather than offer an alternative.


Chrisoula Lionis, A Past Not Yet Passed: Postmemory in the Work of Mona Hatoum

Social Text 32.2, June 2014

Abstract: Mona Hatoum is one of the most internationally recognized and acclaimed Palestinian artists working today. Born in Lebanon and residing in the United Kingdom since 1975 (when she was unable to return to her home following the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war), Hatoum has produced an oeuvre marked not only by her personal experience of exile but also by the collective Palestinian experience of dispossession and occupation. Although it is clear that in her work Hatoum deals with what can be described as the ongoing “Nakbaization” facing Palestinians, she does so while actively evading didactic political narration. Yet, beneath the deliberate political opacity of Hatoum’s work, one can find traces of a form of “postmemory” particular to the Palestinian experience. This article focuses on the postmemory of the Nakba in Hatoum’s work and draws particular emphasis on the 1948 massacre at the village of Deir Yassin and how the event impacts upon the artist’s work. Finding evidence of postmemory in many works from across Hatoum’s career, this article argues that postmemory underpins Hatoum’s emphasis on the broader issues of trauma, gender, orality, and corporeality.


Rebecca Gould, The Materiality of Resistance: Israel’s Apartheid Wall in an Age of Globalization

Social Text 32.1, March 2014

Abstract: This essay examines the graffiti that covers the portion of the West Bank’s segregation wall that traverses Bethlehem. That the majority of the representations covering the wall are intended for international rather than local consumption complicates the prevalent tendency in the literature on this wall to align these representations homogenously with resistance. More than resisting a specific regime, many of these images enter into global conversations about the circulation of power. Images of resistance scripted and consumed by those who observe suffering from afar are juxtaposed to Palestinian engagements with the wall, which is frequently represented allegorically or not represented at all.


Alex Lubin, Les W. Field, Melanie K. Yazzie, Jakob Schiller, The Israel/Palestine Field School: Decoloniality and the Geopolitics of Knowledge

Social Text 31.4, December 2013

Abstract: In May 2011, the Anthropology Department and the Department of American Studies at the University of New Mexico offered a class entitled “Technologies of Settler-Colonialism in Israel-Palestine.” This field school was designed as a decolonizing project for American students (an extremely diverse group representative of New Mexico’s particular diverse population that included Hispanic, Native American, Arab and Muslim-American, Jewish-American, and others) that operated at several levels: through close collaboration with local scholars and experts; through experiential ways of knowing and understanding practices of ethnic cleansing and apartheid; and by being present for and with Palestinian testimony in places Americans seldom go and in this way intimately witnessing quotidian parameters of life under occupation. This article elaborates the historical, theoretical, and ethnographic components of the field school’s activities through the student’s daily activities.


Sunaina Maira and Magid Shihade, Hip Hop from ’48 Palestine: Youth, Music, and the Present/Absent

Social Text 30.3, September 2012

Abstract: This essay explores hip hop produced by Palestinian youth within the 1948 borders of Israel, a site that reveals some of the most acute contradictions of nationalism, citizenship, and settler colonialism. It focuses primarily on the pioneering Palestinian hip-hop group DAM, from Lid, and also on Arapeyat from Akka, Saz from Ramleh, and Awlad el Hara from Nazareth. The article offers the concept of the “present absent” as a profound analytic lens for understanding the fundamental contradictions of the social, political, and cultural conditions created by specific histories of settler colonialism for ’48 Palestinians, who are simultaneously visible/invisible, indigenous/inauthentic, and absent/present. We argue that this new genre of rap reimagines the geography of the nation, linking the experiences of these “’48 Palestinians” to those in the West Bank, in Gaza, and in the diaspora, and producing an archive of censored histories. The article situates this music within a genealogy of artistic and protest movements by ’48 Palestinians, providing a historical context for the national and political identities articulated in the music of a new generation of ’48 Palestinians. There are three major aspects of the articulation of the present/absent in ’48 Palestinian hip hop that we discuss: the critique of official narratives and state policies that rupture Israeli mythologies of democracy and inclusion; the rewriting of the ambiguity and alienation of being Palestinians from “’48”; and the attempt to connect Palestinians “inside” and “outside.”

Olivia C. Harrison, Staging Palestine in France-Algeria: Popular Theater and the Politics of Transcolonial Comparison

Social Text 30.3, September 2012

Abstract: The ongoing uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East require that we reassess the national and regional paradigms that still prevail in Maghreb and Mashreq studies. Taking the double anniversaries of Algerian independence and of the Arab uprisings as my starting point, I analyze a transcolonial identification that continues to capture Maghrebi and Mashreqi imaginaries today: the figure of Palestine. Focusing on a 1971 play by the Algerian writer Kateb Yacine and the popular theater troupe Workers’ Cultural Action, Mohamed Take Your Suitcase, I argue that this play co-opts a figure central to Algerian state discourse, Palestine, in popular languages (Algerian Arabic and Berber) and forms in order to effect a double critique. On the one hand, it ridicules the discourse of fraternity deployed by the state, and its exploitation of the memory of the Algerian war and popular solidarity with Palestine. Far from constituting a manifesto for pan-Arab or pan-Islamic solidarity along identitarian lines, Kateb’s play gives shape to a postcolonial imaginary of emancipation that foreshadows ongoing prodemocracy struggles. Yet it also reactivates anticolonial discourse, exposing the persistence of colonial racism in contemporary France, where metaphors of hospitality have effaced the fraught history of (post)colonial immigration. Placing Mohamed Take Your Suitcase in the context of post-1967 Maghrebi and Franco-Maghrebi pro-Palestinian activism, my reading shows that Franco-Algerian as well as Maghreb-Mashreq relations are intricately connected to the question of Palestine, raising the question of the limits and potential of transcolonial politics.


Helga Tawil-Souri, Colored IdentityThe Politics and Materiality of ID Cards in Palestine/Israel

Social Text 30.3, September 2012

Abstract: In Palestine/Israel, different colored identification cards are mandated by the Israeli state apparatus to Palestinians in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and those who are citizens of Israel. The article traces the development of the bureaucracy of the Palestinian ID card since the establishment of Israel and suggests that modern-day ID cards in Palestine/Israel are physical and visible instruments of a widespread low-tech surveillance mechanism to control mobility and a principal means for discriminating, both positively and negatively, subjects’ privileges and rights. ID cards are both the spaces in which Palestinians confront, tolerate, and sometimes challenge the Israeli state, and a mechanism through which Palestinian spatiality, territoriality, and corporeality are penetrated by the Israeli regime. Vital in the control and differentiation of Palestinian populations, what makes ID cards unique in the Palestinian/Israeli case is that their materiality is one of their most important and resonant aspects. The article describes various representations of the ID cards, for example in poetry and in murals, to show how they also function as sites of remediation, spaces and moments of renegotiation for their bearers, subject to counter-hegemonic representations, interpretations, and uses. As a special kind of material object, ID cards are an effective and low-tech means of surveillance and differentiation and an important nexus of Israeli power, demonstrating the institutional materiality of the state apparatus’s constitution in subjects’ everyday life; but they have also become important because they allow a poetics of political resistance.


Neferti X. M. Tadiar, Empire

Social Text 27.3, September 2009

Abstract: Edward Said’s 1979 essay in the inaugural issue of Social Text, “Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Victims,” places before us the problem of the present moment of global power—the problem called “empire”—in terms of the specific intellectual/political task Said set for himself with respect to Zionism; that is, to bring out its concealed history as it was exacted, from somewhere and some people. We are urged to ask: How do we critically understand the idea of empire and the reality it is a part of? What does it mean to examine empire from the standpoint of its victims? This essay takes up the differences between an older imperialism and present-day empire, in order to envision what yet remains for us to consider in opposing its contemporary global rule.


Lisa Taraki, Urban Modernity on the PeripheryA New Middle Class Reinvents the Palestinian City

Social Text 26.2, June 2008

Abstract: The Palestinian town of Ramallah, possibly on the lowest rung of urban hierarchies in the region, is a peripheral town trying to become a city on the fringes of the Arab world. Its nascent new middle class partakes enthusiastically in the trans-Arab, urban, middle-class ethos elaborated in the centers of Arab modernity, the metropolitan cities. This new imagination, a hybrid construct crafted by the new urban middle classes in the age of globalization and the demise of the postindependence nationalist project, encompasses a new consciousness of self, family life, and family futures.

It is a mark of the power of the trans-Arab, middle-class ethos that it has penetrated into the farthest reaches of the Arab world, and in a turbulent landscape shattered by wars, displacement, and dispossession. I argue that the coalescence of the momentous political events at the local level (the Oslo accords and the process of societal “normalization”) with the general collapse of the nationalist project of the Arab nation-state and the relentless currents of globalization sweeping the Arab world constituted the fertile ground in which the emerging urban middle class began to incubate its new life agendas and the sensibilities and practices that give it expression. City life is becoming a possibility in Palestine, more than half a century after its urban modernity was aborted by war and occupation.


Alex Trimble Young, The Settler Unchained: Constituent Power and Settler Violence

Social Text 33.3, September 2015

Abstract: This article argues that the phrase “monopoly of violence,” which circulates in so many contemporary academic critiques of the liberal state, is not adequate to describe the nature of violence deployed by settler colonial societies against indigenous and racialized bodies. Settler colonialism depends on a mode of popular sovereignty that serves primarily as a diffusion of the necropolitical power of the colonizing polity rather than as a check on the tyranny of the state. Through a consideration of an assemblage of unlikely contemporary objects—Glenn Beck’s 2013 keynote address to the National Rifle Association, Antonio Negri’s monograph Insurgencies: Constituent Power and the Modern State, and Quentin Tarantino’s film Django Unchained—it explores how European and Euro-American imaginings of constituent power can serve to reinforce settler colonial political traditions rather than offer an alternative.


Edward Said: A Memorial Issue

Edited by Patrick Deer, Gyan Prakash, and  Ella Shohat

Social Text 24.2, June 2006

With essays by Patrick Deer, Gyan Prakash, and Ella Shohat; Stathis Gourgouris; Sura P. Rath; Iveta Jusová and Dan Reyes; Gil Z. Hochberg; Hishaam D. Aidi; Nerissa S. Balce; Ana Dopico; and Ioana Luca



Rebecca Luna Stein, National Itineraries, Itinerant Nations: Israeli Tourism and Palestinian Cultural Production; Social Text No. 56, Autumn 1998

Bruce Robbins, Mary Louise Pratt, Jonathan Arac, R. Radhakrishnan, Edward Said Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism: A Symposium; Social Text No. 40, Autumn 1994

Ella Shohat, Sephardim in Israel: Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Jewish Victims; Social Text No. 19/20, Spring 1988

Edward W. Said and Bruce Robbins, American Intellectuals and Middle East Politics: An Interview with Edward W. Said; Social Text No. 19/20, Spring 1988


Barbara Harlow, Return to Haifa: “Opening the Borders” in Palestinian Literature; Social Text No. 13/14, Winter – Spring, 1986