Scholar Ella Habiba Shohat and curator Rasha Salti discuss the new edition of Shohat’s seminal book, Israeli Cinema: East/West and the Politics of Representation (Library of Modern Middle Eastern Studies, 2010) which shaped new paradigms for critical discussion of ‘national cinema’ and the Zionist master-narrative. Their conversation is punctuated by brief excerpts from Palestinian films produced within Israel, and diasporic films that address contested geography of Israel/Palestine. New School faculty member Sumita Chakravarty, a film scholar and author, offers introductory remarks.

Israeli Cinema: East/West and the Politics of Representation explores cinema as a productive site of national culture. Taking its cue from the simultaneous emergence of Zionism and cinema, the book offers a deconstructionist reading of this movement by considering the role that cinema itself played in the ‘invention’ of the nation. The book provoked a stormy public debate upon its translation into Hebrew. Unthinking the Eurocentric imaginary of East versus West, Shohat highlights the paradoxes of an anomalous national/colonial project through a number of salient issues: the ambivalence toward the geographies of both East and West; the Sabra figure as a negation of the Diaspora Jew; the iconography of the land of Israel as a denial of Palestine; the narrative role of the good Arab and the limits of positive image analysis; and the oxymoronic place allotted to Arab-Jews/Mizrahim within an orientalist historical and social discourse.

The new publication includes an extensive postscript chapter that reflects on the book’s initial reception. It looks at the inscription of the Arab-Jewish memory of Muslim spaces, and reflects on the Palestinian narration of the Nakba within a revisionist cinema that actively constructs an audio-visual archive.

Presented in collaboration with Arte East.


Sumita Chakravarty, Associate Dean, School of Media Studies, The New School for Social Engagement

Rasha Salti, former Creative Director and Film Programmer, Arte East

Ella Habiba Shohat, Professor, Cultural Studies and Middle Eastern Studies, New York University

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