Title: Suffering through a National Uprising: The Cultural Politics of Violence, Victimization and Human Rights in Palestine
Name: Lori A. Allen
laa72002@yahoo.com
Year: 2004
Type: Dissertation Fellowship
Summary:

This dissertation is an examination of Palestinian nationalism as it is developed through the practices and idioms of suffering, violence and human rights. I argue that the increased importance of human rights in international political discourse has transformed the way Palestinians represent themselves to each other and to the international community, in particular by reducing political argument to appeals for sympathy.

Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the height of the second intifada that began in September 2000, this ethnography analyzes the dialectical relationship between Palestinian nationalism and transnational human rights discourses, focusing on the local brokers who parlay that discourse in Palestine. Through an analysis of the local Palestinian media and visual representations of the conflict, martyr funerals and other commemorative practices, and fractious arguments over non-violence and suicide bombs, I demonstrate the ways in which each of these arenas reveals modalities through which the Palestinian Authority has tried to shore up its waning power, the nature of factional struggles for social and political legitimacy, as well as how Palestinian society has managed to withstand onslaughts on its social and economic institutions throughout the intifada.

My research investigates those cultural practices through which violence and victimization have become "normal"-even tedious-in the midst of constant, traumatic, deadly disruption. Paradoxically, the acclimatization to death and resistance was at once part of the process whereby individuals were subsumed into a national collective and shared in the tragedies of others through their very habitus, while at the same time, this banalization has become one fulcrum for a critique of that nationalist embrace. These tensions, I argue, have helped sustain the seeming open-endedness of the current intifada. With its unique emphasis on the political and cultural logics behind the specificities of suffering, this study demonstrates how violence-and its corollary, victimhood-have been constituted with culturally specific meanings that serve to perpetuate or deflate conflict, thus illuminating political currents that reach throughout and beyond the Middle East.

Bibliography: Allen, Lori A. "Palestinians Debate 'Polite' Resistance to Occupation," in Beinin, Joel and Rebecca L. Stein (eds.) 2006. The Struggle for Sovereignty Palestine and Israel, 1993-2005. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press 2006.

Allen, Lori A. 2006. "The Polyvalent Politics of Martyr Commemorations in the Palestinian Intifada." History and Memory.