This essay identifies four different modes of ethnographic engagement with Palestine since the nineteenth century: biblical, Oriental, absent, and post-structural. Focusing on the epistemic and political dynamics in which the recent admissibility of Palestine as a legitimate ethnographic subject is embedded, we highlight two conditions. One is the demystification of states and hegemonic groups that control them, and the concomitant legitimacy of groups with counter claims. The other is the “crisis in representation” in the social sciences and the humanities. Combined with the rupture in Israel’s sanctity in the West since the 1980s, these developments were conducive to Palestine’s admission. We conclude by considering Palestine as a problem space that could reinvigorate the critical abilities of post-colonial language and the anthropology that it engenders.
This essay will appear in the Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 40 (Fall, 2011); co-authored with Dan Rabinowits.
Dr. Khaled Furani is an assistant professor of anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel-Aviv University. His research interests include social theory, modernity, language and literature, secularism, and Palestine. His articles have appeared in American Ethnologist, Comparative Studies in Society and History, and the Annual Review of Anthropology, among others. Dr. Furani's book, Silencing the Sea: Secular Rhythms in Palestinian Poetry, is forthcoming from Stanford University Press (2012).
Dr. Ted Swedenburg received his Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Texas in 1988. He has taught at the University of Washington-Seattle, the American University in Cairo, and Ben Gurion University of the Negev. He is currently Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arkansas. His publications include: Memories of Revolt: The 1936-39 Rebellion and the Palestinian National Past (University of Minnesota Press, 1995; University of Arkansas Press, 2003); Palestine, Israel and the Politics of Popular Culture, co-edited with Rebecca Stein (Duke University Press, 2005); and Displacement, Diaspora, and Geographies of Identity, co-edited with Smadar Lavie (Duke University Press, 1996). He is currently working on a book manuscript, Interzone Radio, that deals with the role of popular music in the construction of hybrid, ethnic, national, and transnational identities in the greater Arabo-Islamic world. He is also working on a book on the history and the transnational circulation of the Palestinian kufiya. Dr. Swedenburg serves on the editorial committee of Middle East Report, and is the book series editor, with Paul Silverstein and Susan Slyomovics, of Public Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa, from Indiana University Press.
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