Toxic Ecologies of Occupation
Brian Boyd, Hamed Salem, Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins
Brian Boyd: In June 2012, with a small group of Palestinian colleagues, I entered the Wadi en-Natuf in Palestine for the first time since 2000. In June 2000, it looked like this:
Since 2000, I have been involved in an archaeological project centered in and around the small (population 4,500) Palestinian town of Shuqba in the West Bank (Ramallah and Al-Bireh district). Shuqba gives its name to a large cave in the nearby Wadi en-Natuf, a river valley that runs close to the town. This cave was excavated by the British archaeologist Dorothy Garrod in 1928, during the turbulent early years of the British Mandate. Garrod is a central figure for women's involvement in the history and practice of archaeology. At Shuqba she worked with a team composed primarily of young Palestinian women from the local area, a choice that was unusual for both the date and the region. Garrod subsequently became the first woman professor at the University of Cambridge (1939-1952) and was instrumental in securing admission for women students to the university in 1948. Her pioneering archaeological fieldwork at Shuqba laid the foundations for the prehistory of the entire Levant region and left a complex series of scientific research questions into what has become known in the (still lingering) old cultural-historical archaeological terminology as the "Natufian culture" (ca. 10 to 13 thousand years ago), named after the Wadi en-Natuf at Shuqba. This is when and where archaeologists have traditionally located the earliest origins of agriculture, sedentism, and subsequent plant and animal domestication, as well as the very beginnings of those profound environmental and ecological changes wrought by human occupation, now referred to as the Anthropocene. After Garrod left Palestine in 1928, no further archaeological work was carried out at Shuqba until 2000, when Zoe Crossland (now in the Anthropology Department at Columbia University) and I undertook preliminary investigations in the cave and its wadi with a view to renewed fieldwork and the testing of some of Garrod’s key research propositions using modern techniques (Boyd and Crossland 2000). The Second Intifada (from 2000) resulted in further delays, until new fieldwork finally began in 2012 in collaboration with Professor Hamed Salem and a small team of undergraduate and graduate students from Birzeit University, the largest university in the Palestinian territories. I emphasize this point because in 2012 I was asked by security, on leaving Israel's Ben Gurion Airport, "Are there universities in the West Bank?"Read full article here.
Star Palestinian playwrights exercise "Permission to Narrate"
From The Electronic Intifada by Sarah Irving
Three plays by major contemporary Palestinian playwrights will be performed as staged readings on consecutive nights in New York this month, under the title "Permission to Narrate."
Hosted by Columbia University's Center for Palestine Studies and curated by playwright and poet Ismail Khalidi, the plays, according to organizers, "embody the contemporary Palestinian playwright's use of art to resist historical, political and geographic erasures."
The sequence of plays starts on 25 March with Amir Nizar Zuabi's I am Yusuf and This is My Brother, which was staged in 2010 at London's Young Vic Theatre. Zuabi is one of the founders of Haifa's Shiber Hur Palestinian theater company and his plays about Palestine and Syria have been widely performed and published.Read full article here.
Permission to Narrate: Three Nights of Palestinian Plays
March 25, 26, and 27, 2015, 7:30PM
Earl Hall Theater,
The Center for Palestine Studies invites you to staged readings of three plays that embody the contemporary Palestinian playwright's use of art to resist historical, political and geographic erasures.For more information click here.
Putting Palestine On The Map...And The Soccer Jersey
From Remezcla.com by Ismail Khalidi
As you enter through its main gate under a pair of fluttering Palestinian flags, the Cisterna municipal stadium looks like any run-down soccer field in the West Bank or the Jordan Valley. The parking lot is unpaved and the cars entering for the afternoon game send up yellow clouds of dust. The stadium itself is simple and small, an outdated concrete bowl that officially holds 12,000 people (though, according to statistics, rarely more than a few thousand), most of whom sit on concrete bleachers that encircle the pitch. The concentric rows of stone bleachers even seem to conjure the ancient terraced slopes of Palestine, where for millennia farmers have sculpted the hillsides to cultivate olive trees and other sturdy crops in the dry Mediterranean climate. Here and there sprigs of grass inch through cracks in the dilapidated concrete and stone as a couple hundred of us settle in to brave two hours of scorching heat for the afternoon match.
The team that calls Cisterna home takes the field in uniforms adorned with the Palestinian flag (and its colors of red, black, green and white) and a prominent gold map of historic Palestine emblazoned across the front of their jerseys. The players, for their part, look like your average Palestinians, as do the fans, some of whom are already taunting the opposing team's players with witty asides and double entendres before the opening whistle. Cigarette smoke, a given at any Palestinian gathering, lingers over certain sections as vendors walk back and forth hawking Palestine-themed paraphernalia. Meanwhile, a group of five young kids plays soccer along the aisles, using an empty plastic bottle as their ball. At half-time Arabic music blares through a tinny PA system. Taking it all in, one could perhaps take comfort in the fact that, despite the hardships of living under military occupation, it's apparently still possible for Palestinians to find a modicum of normality, if only for 90 minutes of soccer.Read full article here.
Ismail Khalidi is the curator of the Center for Palestine Studies staged reading series "Permission to Narrate: Three Nights of Palestinian Plays" at Earl Hall, March 25-27, 2015.
Call for Applications: Palestine & Law Fellowship
Columbia University Inaugural Annual Fellowship in Palestine & Law
The Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University's Middle East Institute is pleased to announce the 2015-16 Palestine & Law Fellowship. The Center seeks applicants for a residential Fellowship in "Palestine & Law" for the 2015-2016 academic year. Interested applicants should propose a course of research and scholarship relating to a range of domestic, regional or international legal issues concerning Palestinians and/or Palestine. Topics may include the legal implications of the Nakba; the Israeli occupation of Palestine; the legal status of the Palestinian state; property issues, from possession to dispossession; the legal status of the refugee; employment of legal means to suppress Palestinian activism, in Israel and elsewhere; and regimes of imprisonment, to name only a few illustrative examples. The Fellowship is designed to both deepen the scholarly understanding of the complex ways in which law and legality are implicated in Palestine, and to provide a supportive environment for scholars of Palestine to conduct research. The Fellow will participate in the rich interdisciplinary environment of the Center for Palestine Studies, Columbia Law School, and Columbia University more generally. Applications are welcome from individuals with a diverse range of backgrounds, traditions, and scholarly interests. Applicants should hold a law degree, Ph.D., or similar qualification.
The level of funding is individually determined based on candidates' needs and the Program's ability to meet them. The Fellow will receive a modest living stipend plus benefits, library access, and office space.
Application deadline is extended to March 15, 2015. More details and application information for 2015-2016 are available on the Fellowship page.
Call for Applications: The Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Palestine Studies at Columbia University
The Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University's Middle East Institute is pleased to announce the 2015-2016 Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Award in Palestine Studies.
This post-doctoral fellowship seeks to recognize and foster innovative and ground-breaking scholarship on issues related to Palestine and Palestinians. The award will support a scholar working on a book project in any field of the humanities or social sciences. The Fellow will spend one semester at Columbia University in New York, pursuing her or his research and writing, and participating in the intellectual life of the Center for Palestine Studies. Previous IAL fellows include Lena Meari, who spent Spring 2012 working on her book, Interrogating "Painful" Encounters, an ethnographic, historical, and philosophical study of the encounter between Palestinian political activists and interrogators from the Israeli General Security Service. Leena Dallasheh spent Fall 2012 working on her book manuscript entitled Contested Citizenship in Nazareth: Palestinians' Transition from the Mandate to Israel. Mezna Qato, the third IAL Award recipient, spent Spring 2014 working on a book project, a social history of the Palestinian educational experience in Jordan. The current CPS fellow, Omar Tesdell, is working on a book project based on his dissertation, Shadow Spaces: Territory, Sovereignty, and the Question of Palestinian Cultivation, a spatial history of Palestinian environmental and agricultural practice.
The international competition is open to all post-doctoral scholars who share the mission of the Center for Palestine Studies to advance the production and circulation of knowledge on Palestinian history, culture, society, and politics through outstanding scholarship. The one-semester fellowship at Columbia carries a stipend of $25,000 and the status of post-doctoral research fellow or visiting scholar, as appropriate.
This award has been made possible by the generosity of Abdel Mohsin Al-Qattan, through the A.M. Qattan Foundation, in honor of his friend, the Palestinian scholar and intellectual, Ibrahim Abu-Lughod (1929-2001). Their close friendship began in the aftermath of the nakbah of 1948 and evolved into a shared commitment to justice for Palestinians to be realized in part through support for excellence in higher education and scholarship. In later years, upon the establishment of the A.M. Qattan Foundation in Palestine, Ibrahim Abu-Lughod helped found the Qattan Centre for Educational Research and Development; one of the Foundation's core programs.
Application deadline is February 20, 2015. More details and application information for 2015-2016 are available on the Fellowship page.
Annoucing the fourth recipient of the Ibrahim Abu Lughod Award in Palestine Studies, Omar Imseeh Tesdell
The Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University is pleased to announce the fourth recipient of the Ibrahim Abu Lughod Award in Palestine Studies, Omar Imseeh Tesdell. The award recognizes and seeks to foster innovative and ground-breaking scholarship on issues related to Palestine and Palestinians.
Omar Imseeh Tesdell is Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at Birzeit University. He will spend Spring 2015 at Columbia working on a book project based on his dissertation, Shadow Spaces: Territory, Sovereignty, and the Question of Palestinian Cultivation. A spatial history of Palestinian environmental and agricultural practice, the book explores the relationship between the work of cultivation and claims to land. Cultivation in the conventional sense is understood to be an abstract concept that allows institutions like the state to deploy technologies of control, whether through law, coercion, or agricultural development. Yet generally overlooked is an understanding of cultivation as the longstanding concrete practice of farmers to uphold collective claims to land. In contrast to a self-evident concept of cultivation, the practice of cultivation thus emerges as a flashpoint to consider the question of territory and sovereignty. As such, the book offers a spatial history of cultivation in Palestine and develops a theoretical understanding of it as constituted by both colonialism and oppositional political community arrayed around it.
Two works emerging from his research are forthcoming in edited volumes, one entitled â€śLand and the Question of Palestinian Cultivationâ€ť in New Directions in Palestinian Studies, and another entitled â€śOn Naming and Beingâ€ť in Being Palestinian: Personal Reflections on Palestinian Identity in the Diaspora from Edinburgh University Press. Tesdell completed his Ph.D. in the Department of Geography at the University of Minnesota in 2013. His research has been supported by the Arab Council for Social Sciences (ACSS), Social Science Research Council (SSRC), Palestinian American Research Center (PARC), and the University of Minnesota.
This award has been made possible by the generosity of Abdel Mohsin Al-Qattan, through the A.M. Qattan Foundation, in honor of his friend, the Palestinian scholar and intellectual, Ibrahim Abu-Lughod (1929-2001). Their close friendship began in the aftermath of the Nakbah of 1948 and evolved into a shared commitment to justice for Palestinians to be realized in part through support for excellence in higher education and scholarship.
PALESTINE'S SOUTH AFRICA MOMENT?
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement
On December 2, 2014 CPS hosted a founder of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Omar Barghouti, who spoke to a packed audience. In addition to remarks by Professors Nadia Abu El-Haj and Rashid Khalidi, the other main speaker of the evening was CPS faculty member and world renowned scholar Mahmood Mamdani. Professor Mamdani spoke in comparative terms about the history of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the implications of this history for Palestinian activism.
Mahmood Mamdani, Herbert H. Lehman Professor of Government, Columbia University
The Heyman Center for the Humanities in association with The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies at Columbia University
On October 20, 2014, Professor Richard Falk, Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law and Practice Emeritus at Princeton University delivered The Annual Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture. Entitled, "The Palestinian Future After Gaza," the talk focused on the present reality and future direction of the Palestinian struggle.
Read more about Professor Richard Falk and The Annual Edward W. Said Memorial lecture here, and watch the entire lecture below.
IN COLLABORATION | COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF THE ARTS, CENTER FOR PALESTINE STUDIES & THE HARLEM INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
On September 10, 2014, the US Premiere of Children of the Light opened the 9th Annual Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) following on the heels of its sold out World Premiere screening in Monaco.
At 82, Tutu is a moral icon and father of modern day South Africa who continues to fight on as a tireless advocate for justice and equality for people in every corner of the globe. "One day he is standing up against the oil sands deal in Canada; next he is calling for human rights for the people of Palestine; then he is stating that he cannot worship a homophobic god."
Read more about Archbishop Emeritus Desmund Tutu's support of the Palestinian people here.
Co-sponsored by the Center for Palestine Studies and School of the Arts at Columbia University.
Hany Abu-Assad's short film, "A Boy, A Wall, and A Donkey," was one of the Palestinian productions featured at the International Harlem Film Festival.
Announcing the first recipients of the Palestine and Law Fellowship, Suhad Bishara and Jamal Nusseibeh
The Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University is pleased to announce the first recipients of the inaugural Palestine & Law Fellowship, Suhad Bishara and Jamal Nusseibeh. The Fellowship is designed to both deepen the scholarly understanding of the complex ways in which law and legality are implicated in Palestine, and to provide a supportive environment for scholars of Palestine to conduct research. The Fellow will participate in the rich interdisciplinary environment of the Center for Palestine Studies, Columbia Law School, and Columbia University more generally.
Suhad Bishara is a senior attorney and the Head of the Land and Planning Unit of Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. She has litigated numerous constitutional rights cases before the Israeli Supreme Court concerning the land rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). She is an Editor of Makan - Adalah's Journal of Land, Planning and Justice, and she co-authored a report entitled "Nomads Against Their Will", in 2011 about the State of Israel's attempt to expel Arab Bedouin citizens of the state from their village in the Naqab (Negev) desert.
Bishara's research project will focus on challenging the applicability of the rule of law and constitutional protection on the Palestinian citizens of Israel by examining the case of the unrecognized Palestinian Bedouin villages in the Naqab (Negev) desert in southern Israel. Due to the lack of recognition, these villages lack basic infrastructure and services, and the residents live under constant threat of home demolition and eviction orders. She will examine whether and how today's judicial policy towards the unrecognized villages, is a continuation of the historical, judicial policy used in Palestinian land confiscation cases in the aftermath of the Nakba in 1948 and through the 1950s, when the Israeli judicial system suspended the rule of law and constitutional protections. Bishara will also investigate the connection between the past and the present by examining the contribution of the law and the judiciary to the continuation of the Nakba on territorial matters in Israel.
Dr. Jamal Nusseibeh is an Assistant Professor of Law at Al Quds University (AQU) in Jerusalem, where he developed and taught courses on Human Rights Law and on Domestic and International Arbitration. He also devised and taught a course on Jerusalem for graduate students enrolled in AQU's Jerusalem Studies program, analyzing the city from a legal and political perspective. From Fall 2010 until 2013, he also served as Vice President of AQU, in which capacity he was responsible for managing the legal and development strategy of the University in Jerusalem, navigating the unique legal and political challenges faced by what is one of two remaining major Palestinian institutions in the city.
Nusseibeh obtained his initial degrees from the Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) in Paris, and worked as speechwriter and aide to the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council before going to England to study postgraduate law at City University and become a Barrister, as a Queen Mother Scholar at the Middle Temple. He obtained his LL.M. (Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar) and J.S.D. (Joseph V. Heffernan Fellow) from Columbia University, with a dissertation entitled International Economic Dispute Settlement: Morality and Authority in Investment Arbitration and at the WTO . Nusseibeh is interested in questions of law, morality, sovereignty and authority, and the multiple novel interactions of these concepts in the Palestinian context. At CPS, he plans to write specifically on Jerusalem, using the course he developed at AQU as a framework for an empirical analysis of the city, and relying in part on his practical experience of the University's struggle to survive in Jerusalem as a case study of the complexities of long-term occupation and the increasingly dire situation in Jerusalem in the years since Oslo. He will be looking at questions such as how people do, and are supposed to, behave in the absence of (acceptable/accepted) law and (acceptable/accepted) sovereignty, and whether there may be practical solutions to improve the situation for persons (people, institutions) in the absence of macro-level political decision-making (is this a transitional justice situation, or is it no longer transitional?). By re-viewing Jerusalem empirically, he hopes also to reach some normative/prescriptive conclusions as to how Palestinians (and others?) in and from Jerusalem can/ought to interact with the multiple (quasi-) legal/political systems that vie for control over their lives.
Santiago Palestine Film Fest Concludes with Resounding Success
Sunday marked the last day of the inaugural Palestine Film Festival in Chile sponsored by the Center for Palestine Studies, the Columbia Global Center in Santiago, the Center for Arab Studies at the University of Chile, and hosted at Cineteca Nacional de Chile.
The Festival brought together a showcase of Palestinian and Chilean artists including musician Ana Tijoux, iconic Chilean Palestinian filmmaker Miguel Littin, and Claudia Aravena Abughosh, Palestinian Chilean video artist.
The program featured the screening of 13 films, 7 of them feature films, 12 of which premiered for the first time in Chile. Opening night on June 23 kicked off with introductions by Columbia's Vice President for Columbia Global Centers and Global Development Safwan Masri, Columbia's Dean of the School of the Arts Carol Becker and MarĂa Eugenia GĂłngora DĂaz, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Chile.For the full program click here: Muestra Cine Palestino.
CPS presents the first annual Palestinian Film Festival in Santiago, Chile
June 23-29, 2014 at Cineteca Nacional de Chile
The Center for Palestine Studies (CPS) at Columbia University presents the first annual Palestinian Film Festival in Santiago, Chile at the Cineteca Nacional (Centro Cultural La Moneda). This weeklong festival, which runs from June 23 to 29, 2014, will feature iconic works from Palestinian cinema, which has emerged as a globally influential artistic force.
CPS, in collaboration with the Columbia Global Centers Latin America (Santiago), the Center for Arab Studies at the University of Chile and the Cineteca Nacional, will present a comprehensive selection of Palestinian cinema. Following in the footsteps of other Palestinian international film festivals in Madrid, London and Boston, the purpose of the inaugural Santiago Festival is to engage Latin American audiences with filmic depictions of Palestinian history and culture.
This yearâ€™s Festival is focused on the theme of cinema and exile. The program includes the screening of eight feature films and five short films; twelve of these films will be premiered for the first time in Chile.
The impressive list of films include emblematic works by internationally renowned directors and artists like Michel Khleifi, Elia Suleiman, Hany Abu Assad, Mona Hatoum, Annemarie Jacir and Cherien Dabis, and documentary filmmakers Nasri Hajjaj , Azza El- Hassan and Omar Shargawi, along with emerging young artists the likes of Basma Alsharif , Larissa Sansour, and Mahdi Fleifel.
Omar (2013), nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film after great success at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and at several other international festivals, will be shown on opening night on June 23, 2014. Waleed Zuaiter, the filmâ€™s producer and actor who plays Agent Rami will open the Festival with a discussion after the filmâ€™s screening.
Moreover, one of the most important Palestinian directors, Michel Khleifi, director of Zindeeq (2009), which premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival, will participate. At its inaugural event in October 2010, the Center hosted Khleifi for the New York premiere of his film.
Cherein Dabis, director and alumna of the Columbia University Film School, will also participate in the Festival for a discussion after the screening of her film Amreeka (2009).
The festival will also feature panel discussions by Professors from the Center for Arab Studies at the University of Chile who will discuss the central theme of the festival: â€ścinema, exile and occupation.â€For more information and the full program click here: Muestra Cine Palestino.
CPS Faculty Professor Rashid Khalidi Honored for Excellence in Publishing
From Columbia College News
The Academic Awards Committee of the Columbia College Student Council has announced the winners of the 2014 Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching and the 2014 Lionel Trilling Book Award.
The Lionel Trilling Book Award, given to a member of Columbia's faculty whose book was published in the previous year, will be presented to Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies and Literature in the Department of History, for his book Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S has Undermined Peace in the Middle East (2013).
Read the full story here.
CPS Faculty awarded 2013 MEMO Palestine Book Awards
November 19, 2013--In London last week, the Middle East Monitor (MEMO) Palestine Book Awards granted Rashid Khalidi the 2013 Academic Prize for his recently released, Brokers of Deceit: How the US Undermined Peace in the Middle East.
MEMO awarded the 2013 General Prize to Penny Johnson and Raja Shehadeh for Seeking Palestine: New Palestinian Writing on Exile and Home with contributions by CPS Faculty Lila Abu-Lughod, as well as Rema Hammami and Suad Amiry, who were featured in a Center for Palestine Studies event on Seeking Palestine in March 2013. Raja Shehadeh also delivered this year's Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture.
Congratulations to all the prize winners!
Read the full story here .
Embarrassing, Contrary, Unpleasant:
An Introduction to Judith Butler and Cornel West in Conversation
Professor James Schamus, Columbia University, New York
30 October 2013
Good evening, and thanks Lila. Let me briefly lay out the format for tonight's event, meditate a bit on some of the questions its title might suggest to our speakers, and commence with a first question. Let us begin by acknowledging that this was a very hot ticket - more on that in a second - and that tonight we are in, to borrow a phrase both from Israeli jurisprudence and from Judith Butler's recent work, a lot of absent-presences. So while we will solicit questions to supplement and continue tonight's conversation, we're going to do so virtually, in the hope that those of you not sitting with us in Low Library will feel the connection we here certainly feel with you.
So if you'd like to join the conversation, tweet your question to @CUpalestine using #edwardsaid or post to our Facebook Event page Judith Butler and Cornel West, in Conversation, by the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University. Operators are standing by; and in about 45 minutes to an hour or so one of them will discreetly hand me a stack of questions and comments and, if and when the opportunity arises and the conversation finds a lull, I will share them with you. If, however, the conversation feels like it can continue uninterrupted, I'll hold fire, and ask your forgiveness in advance if we entertain few if any questions.
So, some preliminaries to an initial question, prompted by the sub-title of tonight's event: "Palestine and the Public Intellectual: Honoring Edward Said." I'd like briefly to break down some of the constituent parts of that title in preface to the conversation it announces.
First, Honoring Edward Said. This evening takes place as one of a wonderful number of events commemorating Edward Said, and as such it prompts if not begs the question as to the uses and reasons for those commemorations, honorifications, memorializations and celebrations. A couple of weeks ago in Lerner Hall Edward Said was remembered; last week his memorial lecture was delivered; and tonight he is honored. It is appropriate, under such circumstances, to ask whether and how his memory is working, and how it should be working, and for whom it should be working.
One use, of course, arises from the simple conjunction of the name Edward Said with the word Palestine. And here, I feel the need to try to articulate a specific and particular sense of excitement about tonight's conversation. Let's face facts, each of tonight's interlocutors, alone, is, to use the language of celebrity (which raises its own questions but also feels somewhat appropriate tonight), as I said before, a hot ticket. But together, in conversation, present, to each other, Judith Butler and Cornel West make this feel like a moment, an event. And the territory, occupied or otherwise, where they come together is, not just figuratively, Palestine. Tonight it feels as though, unlike perhaps in Edward Said's day, it is not the question of Palestine that is invoked. Rather, it is Palestine that is asking the questions; indeed, Palestine is demanding answers.
Then we have this word "public." What is a public, or, to ask the question another way, what do publics do? (And what is the public doing here tonight?) Unlike proletariats, peoples, communities, and masses, publics exist mainly to...have opinions. Or, perhaps we could say that the "public" in these neo-liberal times serves as a notional value or subject that provides the site for the production, management, circulation, and consumption of the idea or representation of "their" opinions.
For Said, though, the word public always held out the promise of its Enlightenment origins, as the site of public reason, as a place where genuine truths can emerge. That's why, for Said, there is no need for the category of "public" intellectual - for the intellectual is, by his definition, always public, someone who publishes, who comes into being as such by making representations to a public. As Said writes in his wonderful volume Representations of the Intellectual, "There is no such thing as a private intellectual" (12). The intellectual, he says, "is an individual endowed with a faculty for representing, embodying, articulating a message, a view, an attitude, philosophy or opinion to, as well as for, a public" (11).
To, as well as for. The intellectual represents, paradoxically teaching her public, something, in a sense, the public already knows but just doesn't know that it knows - teaching it, in the Saidian version, the unknown truth about what it really is. The Saidian intellectual plays a strange role, one that requires the intellectual to come into being wholly in relation to the public, but to not be the public, or part of the public - to be a representing representation. For Said, the intellectual stands outside, and mainly, again with a nod to his enlightenment heritage, because, as Said writes, the intellectual's speech is always "on behalf of universal principles" (11). That is, the intellectual speaks on behalf of that which is not particular to a public, on behalf of that which cannot be contained within any particular public, but which is somehow essential to the idea of any public insofar as it is a public.
The weight of that universal burden, unmoored from an actually situated public home, makes the intellectual anything other than the usual expert sent out to manage the public through his or her expertise: Said's intellectual paradoxically maintains the social prestige and authority of the intellectual class, but is, as he puts it, "...someone who cannot easily be co-opted by governments or corporations, and whose raison d'etre is to represent all those people and issues that are routinely forgotten or swept under the rug" (11).
And here you see another, paradoxical dialectical leap in Said's thinking - the "public" that the intellectual is to represent to the public is actually the abjected, the forgotten, the oppressed, that is to say outsiders, those who have been relegated to a space outside the public sphere. Paradoxically, in order for the intellectual to play the role of intellectual to the public, she must mimic the abject state of these outsiders, but now from a position of authority if not of power.
Heavy burdens to bear, which is no doubt why Said constantly references the intellectual's, well, crankiness: "Least of all," he writes, "should an intellectual be there to make his/her audiences feel good: the whole point is to be embarrassing, contrary, even unpleasant" (12). It is as if, for Said, the repulsion felt by the proper public for those habitually abjected and excluded must, if only as a moment of negative pleasure, be felt also in the presence of the intellectual. Intellectuals may represent the public, and represent to the public, but the process required in order to make these representations is a fundamentally antagonistic one, making the representations themselves by definition incongruous and dissonant.
I think I speak on behalf of tonight's public, when I say how excited I am to be here to listen in on what I know will be, in honor of Edward Said, a truly embarrassing, contrary and unpleasant conversation. And let's start it by asking, as we have asked about what memorializations do, what publics do, what intellectuals do, and what Palestine does, a simple question you need entertain only by ignoring it: What, exactly, are we doing here tonight?
1 Edward Said, Representations of the Intellectual, New York: Vintage, 1996.
2 For an interesting exploration of these issues, see Danielle Ranciere and Jacques Ranciere, "The Philosopher's Tale: Intellectuals and the Trajectory of Gauchisme," in Jacques Ranciere, The Intellectual and his People, London: Verso, 2012, pp. 74-100.
Two Weeks In Palestine: My First Visit
Michael Taussig, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
Thursday June 17, 2013: I pretty well stopped eating in Palestine, not because I wasn't offered food at every turn, but because the intensity ate me alive. It was like I was breathing different air on a different planet where the customary laws of gravity and physics no longer existed. Except it wasn't just the harsh reality of physics-of land occupation and check-points and the permits required for any and everything-but the even harsher reality of things harder for me to pin down. Paranoia? Yes. Anxiety? Yes. But these terms are too obvious yet not quite right, anyway. Above all what threw me was the patience and calm in the midst of choppy seas that in an instant could become a gale inside and outside. Was it that things seemed calm, but shouldn't? Or was it that people spent a lot of time making calm, if you see what I mean, and that this was a sort of national pastime, a gargantuan cultural feat, "making calmness." (Compare with the agitated frenzy I always hear about in Israel) Or is it that no matter how bad a situation, people adapt and life continues in its steady and unsteady rhythms, as it must for the 40 year old man I met in the subterranean market in Hebron selling spices at the same stall all his life and who has never seen the sea, holding my arm, eyes burning, when I tell him I am from Sydney. Although it is quite close, he has never seen the sea because he doesn't have a permit to travel the necessary roads. But the spices need to be gathered from the dusty hillsides, the customers expect it, and he has to live, sea-less as it may be. Twenty meters away Jewish settlers are said to pour garbage and even urine down into the marketplace from their houses which not so long ago were the homes of Palestinians whom, by and large, Israelis insist on calling "arabs" as if the very word PALESTINE does not exist, is not allowed to exist, and yet for all of that non-existence very much exists-as a taboo word threatening thought itself and, indeed, the very writing of this diary. Never have I felt the use of names and words to be so precarious.
Continue reading Taussig's Two Weeks in Palestine here.