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Occupied by Memory

Occupied by Memory: The Intifada Generation and the Palestinian State of Emergency

John Collins
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 285
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  • Book Info
    Occupied by Memory
    Book Description:

    Occupied by Memory explores the memories of the first Palestinian intifada. Based on extensive interviews with members of the "intifada generation," those who were between 10 and 18 years old when the intifada began in 1987, the book provides a detailed look at the intifada memories of ordinary Palestinians. These personal stories are presented as part of a complex and politically charged discursive field through which young Palestinians are invested with meaning by scholars, politicians, journalists, and other observers. What emerges from their memories is a sense of a generation caught between a past that is simultaneously traumatic, empowering, and exciting - and a future that is perpetually uncertain. In this sense, Collins argues that understanding the stories and the struggles of the intifada generation is a key to understanding the ongoing state of emergency for the Palestinian people. The book will be of interest not only to scholars of the Middle East but also to those interested in nationalism, discourse analysis, social movements, and oral history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7242-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Prologue: Approaching a Permanent State of Emergency
    (pp. 1-9)

    This is a book aboutthe possibilities of memory. It is rooted in the belief that thinking and talking about the past is a worthwhile enterprise, but one that is inevitably marked by uncertainty. No mere exercise in simple recollection or in repeating received ideas, an active engagement with the past is necessarily about the present and the future as well. It is about open-endedness, not self-assuredness. To approach the past in this way is to embrace what Stuart Hall calls a “politics without guarantees,” a politics that assumes that even under the most oppressive conditions, meaning can never be...

  6. 1 Production Notes
    (pp. 10-34)

    There is nothing simple about memory. Both seductive and perilous, memory can be a site of trauma, a place where the past “flashes up at a moment of danger” (Benjamin 1968c) only to disappear as soon as we try to grasp it and pin it down. Memory can be a tool in the hands of emperors, presidents, corporations, and others who seek to extend their domination by fixing the meaning of the past; yet it can also be a strategic ally for those who are dominated. It can help create nations, and it can tear nations apart. It can inspire...

  7. 2 “Gaza Is Ruled by a Child”: The Intifada and the Rhetoric of Generation
    (pp. 35-74)

    The emergence of young people as political actors can generate a diverse field of discourses, opening up new possibilities for representing the relationship between the nation and its children. At no time was this more evident in Palestine than at the beginning of the intifada; while sophisticated analysis of the role of young people was lacking at that point, it seems that virtually everyone felt a need to comment on the activists who quickly became known as the “children of the stones” (atfāl al-hijāra). For every Israeli government official who argued that Palestinian children were being sent out into the...

  8. 3 Between Romance and Tragedy: A Balata Family Confronts the Present
    (pp. 75-110)

    My initial entry intomukhayyam Balatawas accomplished in part through the assistance of Ashraf, a twenty-four-year-old resident of the camp whom I met while he was working in Ramallah. Having just graduated from An-Najah University in Nablus, Ashraf took an immediate interest in my desire to interview members of his generation. Perhaps because he was a sociology major, he quickly began peppering me with the sorts of questions I had always imagined anonymous committee members asking when reviewing grant proposals that suggested some intellectual or practical uncertainty: What did I hope to find out? How would I decide whom...

  9. 4 The Secret Locations of Memory: Political Lessons at Home and in Prison
    (pp. 111-140)

    Telling the story of one’s childhood or youth in terms of the places that inhabit one’s memory is a convention with a long history in the genre of autobiographical writing. An excellent example is Walter Benjamin’s “A Berlin Chronicle,” in which the German philosopher likens his memories of childhood in Berlin to “the ground … in which dead cities lie interred,” suggesting that the process of remembering is as much a spatial, even archaeological exercise as an intellectual one.¹ The Palestinians I interviewed would agree, although they speak much less philosophically about the places of their youth. Rather than emphasizing...

  10. 5 The Testing Grounds of Memory: Social Inversion at School and in the Streets
    (pp. 141-162)

    The kind of hermeneutic reversal discussed in the previous chapter, in which interviewees reformulated the prison as a space of political action and personal growth, is largely absent from narratives focusing on the school (madrasa) and the street (shārec). The difference, I argue, lies in the nature of the spaces involved. As we have seen, attempts by Palestinians to stress empowering aspects of the prison experience are partly explainable as reactions to the widely held assumption that Israeli prisons and detention centers were inevitably places of direct, totalizing repression and thus of victimization. In the schools, however, Israeli control was...

  11. 6 “In the Beginning … but Afterward …”: Moral Chronologies and Reassessments of the Intifada
    (pp. 163-210)

    In conducting popular memory research, I often found that my own desire to explore the “subjective” recesses of memory seemed to conflict with the expectations many interviewees brought to the conversation. These expectations, I think, were rooted in the assumption—mistaken perhaps, but entirely understandable—that despite my stated interest in intifada stories, I mustreallybe interested in getting “information,” in finding out the “facts.” Ashraf, the young sociology student who introduced me to the Abu-Hawila family, was the person most openly uncomfortable with what was, to him, a contradiction between his own inclinations toward “scientific” research projects and...

  12. 7 Postscript: A Permanent State of Emergency (continued)
    (pp. 211-228)

    A thirty-three-year-old man is speaking to a reporter from theToronto Starin Balata camp, which the reporter refers to as a “destitute rabbit’s warren of back alleys.” The young man, who calls himself “Abu Walid” in thenom de guerretradition of an earlier generation, is one of the leaders of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, formed by Fateh activists in the midst of the “second intifada.” Israel, in his view, is a “spoiled child that will give us nothing,” and he vows that he and his comrades will continue to launch attacks as long as Israel continues its oppression...

  13. Appendix: The Intifada: A Brief Overview
    (pp. 229-234)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 235-252)
  15. Glossary of Arabic Terms
    (pp. 253-254)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 255-266)
  17. Index
    (pp. 267-284)
  18. About the Author
    (pp. 285-285)