Off the Script: Staging Palestinian Humanity
- Author(s): Abuelhiga, Soraya J
- Advisor(s): El-Tayeb, Fatima
- et al.
The relationship between artistic practice and liberatory politics in Palestine is framed by two related and pervasive problems affecting both Palestinian lives on the ground and representations of the Palestinian people in media, politics, and intellectual discourses: Narrative disenfranchisement, or the enforced lack of discursive control and narrative agency stemming from the “shrinking” of Palestinian identity, culture, and history in dominant political discourse; and relative humanization as the sociopolitical and discursive practice of both differentially distributing and limiting the protections or applications of inalienable human rights for those bodies and communities deemed not fully human. Palestinian displacement, oppression, collective criminalization, and death continues to exemplify and be informed by the discursive and actual dehumanization of Palestinian identities and bodies. Consequently, Palestinian cultural and artistic performances of nationalism and national identity involve an affirmation of or demand for human rights in the face of inhumane campaigns of violence and ongoing cultural erasure amid widespread international indifference and the geopolitical hegemony of human rights as both policy and industry in Palestine. I examine this interplay between humanization and narrativization as it is played out in the production and performance of Palestinian collective identity and cultural resistance through theatre, literature, and film as artistic and political practices of literary, performative, and visual storytelling. I broaden the term “texts” to include and accommodate informal, everyday, or marginalized storytelling practices so often central to the survival of persecuted communities, cultures, histories and narratives, and communal and collective memories. Combining onsite ethnographic observations from fieldwork with firsthand Palestinian narrations and artistic interventions, my aim is to paint a comprehensive portrait of the often underexplored quotidian and popular ways in which Palestinians confront and negotiate their misrepresentation in news media, their underrepresentation in historical and political narratives, their simplification in Euro-American politico-cultural imaginaries, and their ambivalent interactions with the global industrialization of human rights. The interdisciplinary nature of my study highlights the necessity of engaging with Palestinian popular culture and narrative practices through bottom-up cultural studies approaches and interventions invested in de-limiting and de-centering academic research practices on Palestine and Palestinians.