Title: Sumud: A Philosophy of Confronting Interrogation
Name: Lena Meari


Year: 2011
Type: Dissertation Fellowship

This dissertation investigates Palestinian-Israeli colonial relations from the perspective of the interrogation-encounter between Palestinian political activists and interrogators from the Israeli security service during the last forty years of Zionist colonization in Palestine. It engages ethnographically and philosophically with questions of shifting colonial relations and conditions, forms of politics, and cultural-political constructions of communities and subjectivities.

Since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in 1967, over 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested and interrogated by Israel. This figure constitutes approximately 20% of the total Palestinian population in the 1967 Occupied Palestinian Territory and 40% of Palestinian males. I argue that in accounts of the interrogation-encounter, one can read the shifting forms of colonial relations, political subjectivity and community, and the power technologies of the last four decades of Zionist colonization in Palestine.

The interrogation-encounter is a revealing ethnographic site for analyzing how Palestinians and Israelis have been mutually constituted throughout their colonial encounter and how Palestinians have simultaneously carved out a space for a form of politics that breaks with the predicament of the colonial dialectic through the cultivation of sumud. In the context of colonized Palestine, sumud has come to embody a whole range of significations, sensibilities, affections, attachments, aspirations and practices.

Sumud as it emerges throughout the different chapters of the dissertation signifies a revolutionary becoming. “Revolutionary” in the sense of refusing to recognize and surrender to the power structures of colonialism, and “Becoming” in the sense that it is a processional formation that is never finished or fixed. That is, sumud as a revolutionary becoming is not an essence within the subjectivity of the samed. It is continuously generated within the affects, rhetoric and practices of the samed. It is an infinite process of de-subjectivation and deterritorialization. Each practice of sumud in the interrogation is an actualization of the potentiality of the “revolutionary becoming.” It reflects moments of realized revolutionary being. Hence, as a revolutionary becoming, the constellation of sumud does not only involve a specific organization of the affective familial, social and comradely relationality and an antagonistic colonial relationality. It also involves a continuous re-organization of relationality to the heterogeneous components of the self. This revolutionary becoming has a specific relationship to pain and body. Pain is not contained in the individual body of the one practicing sumud. It exceeds the individual body and re-forms the collective body of munadilin (strugglers). Pain, in this sense, is relational as opposed to the prevalent theorizations on pain as separation. The relationality of pain has crucial ramifications on the potentialities of the body to bear torture and pain.

By delving into the Palestinian political subjectivity cultivated through sumud, I reflect on the interconnection between modes of subjectivities and forms of politics. I suggest that the formations of “revolutionary subjectivity,” a form of subjectivity constantly engaged in re- structuring the self in the context of not recognizing or surrendering to power structures, opens up new conceptions of politics that involve relationality, imagination and affects, in a way that destabilizes the rational conception of politics. The practices of the revolutionary subjectivity constitute an interruption to linear temporality and disciplining spatiality.


Meari, Lena. 2015. Re-signifying “Sexual” Colonial Power Techniques: The Experiences of Palestinian Women Political Prisoners, in Rethinking Gender in Revolutions and Resistance: Lessons from the Arab World, editors: Maha El-Said, Lena Meari, Nicola Pratt, Zed Books.

Meari, Lena. 2015. Reconsidering Trauma: Towards a Palestinian Community Psychology, Journal of Community Psychology, Vol. 43, No.1, 76-86.

Meari, Lena. 2014. Sumud: A Palestinian Philosophy of Confrontation in Colonial Prisons, South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. 113, No. 3, 547-578.