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Memory for Return: Nakba Histories, Resistant Archives and the Dr. Constantine Zurayk Collection
What does it mean to mark the Nakba today? How do archival traces from the Nakba frame and guide us? How can we better harness them in resisting the ongoing Nakba and working towards Al-Awda? This paper considers the politics of memorializing the Nakba based on my experience archiving the personal papers of the Arab Nationalist and historian par excellence, Dr. Constantine Zuyark, who is credited with coining the term. As a Library & Archival Fellow in 2015 and at irregular intervals since, I helped arrange and describe the Dr. Zurayk collection housed at the AUB’s Jafet Library. Situated within the archival & information science fields, this paper forms an integral part of a decades-long cross-disciplinary inquiry into the complex dynamics between settler colonialism, apartheid state formations, decolonization and archives in national settings and global arenas from Canada, France, Algeria and Palestine to UNESCO, the Arab League and International Council on Archives (ICA). Grounded in anticolonial feminist methods of refusal, it draws on multilingual records and documents from the AUB collection and UNESCO’s central archives in Paris, alongside a close reading of numerous books written by Zurayk in Arabic. Accordingly, the paper introduces new information about Zurayk’s activities in the 1950s and 1960s at UNESCO while exploring his theorizing of two moments of Arab political crisis, the 1948 Nakba (a term he coined) and the 1967 Naksa. It highlights his influential interventions on Arab historicity, identity and heritage, which emphasize dynamism, change and solidarity as a counter to ahistorical tropes of oriental despotism and primordial sectarianism. Against this background, it outlines the ethical and practical difficulties I faced applying dominant professional cataloging standards and methods, like the ICA’s ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description, to capture the resistant geohistories and liberatory potential of the Zurayk collection. In the process, it speaks to some of the conundrums and challenges inherent to any attempt to represent records of Arab nationalist and Third World movements from a present marked by the seeming failure of Arabism and Third Worldism. Situating the Zurayk collection as part of a larger counter archive, of arsheef al- muquwama (Arabic: resistance archive), this paper demonstrates the power of Nakba narratives to speak back to Zionist archives and historiography.
Library Science
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