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Memory Studies Beyond Nationalism in the Arab World(s)

RoundTable XI-3, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Sunday, November 5 at 8:30 am

RoundTable Description
This roundtable discussion seeks to facilitate dialogue around Palestinian and Arab memory work that lies outside the parameters of the nation-state. What other ways does remembering history and imagining a liberated future demand from us? How does collective memory-work look and feel like when its corpus is expanded from those in the West, to our diasporas in Latin Americas as well as those internally displaced in the Arab world? This conversation between junior scholars, community organizers, and journalists illuminates the complex and creative ways that histories of displacement, imperialism, colonization, and Zionism are preserved and challenged. We assert that a decolonial methodology around Arabs and Palestine are necessary as we navigate the responsibility of doing Palestinian memory-work. Whether through visual culture, oral histories, theoretical reconceptualizations, or literature, we highlight the routes that Palestinian and Arab women engage in re-membering and world-making that at its core builds upon the discipline of memory studies, while grounding culture and identity as informants to how memory and imagination present themselves in historical and contemporary moments. The first panelist discusses the role of imagination in Palestinian resistance within the West Bank, focusing on visual elements throughout the Old City to understand how memory and the future are intertwined within historical, heritage spaces. The second panelist discusses why Arab memory work requires different ways of remembering that rest outside of national identity, the limitations of existing memory frameworks, and why for Arab and Palestinians, embodied memories become our most reliable sources of history. The third panelist discusses how journalism can be used to preserve, construct, and make accessible the collective modern Palestinian memory by giving autonomy to reliable narrators, and how young people in particular are vital actors in this practice of memoralizing as they tell stories of their becoming.The fourth panelist discusses the importance of engaging in counterstorytelling to engage in transformational resistance as an effort to recover our memory and disrupt the settler colonial public memory that violently erases our existence. Throughout our conversation we invite audience members to actively participate in the dialogue as we engage in the collaborative process of narrative preservation and exchange strategies and desires around what future vision these memories serve to build.
  • Participant one will speak broadly about new ways of conceptualizing “bodily archives” though mitochondria and chronic/inherited illnesses. Highlighting the centrality of maternal lineages to both mitochondrial ancestry and Arab feminisms they bridge Arab Memory Studies, Feminist Science Studies, and Narrative Medicine they offer an archival practice of remembering equipped for the ontology of Arab women’s silences, absences, pain, and preservation (biological, political, and cultural).
  • Participant two will speak about how imagination functions visually through the Old City in the West Bank. Broadly speaking, this presentation focuses on bridging Jayyusi's (2007) conceptualization of Palestinian-memory work to expand on how futurity is found within the artwork in a historical, heritage space such as the Old City. Paying attention to the specific memorials and graffiti throughout the Old City, this presentation focuses on how artwork in these spaces is utilized to contest more official ways of engaging in memory and imagination, especially since graffiti in the Palestinian past played a large part of sending resistive and secretive messages during the Intifadas.
  • Participant three will discuss how journalism can be used to preserve, construct, and make accessible the collective modern Palestinian memory by giving autonomy to reliable narrators, and how young people in particular are vital actors in this practice of memorializing as they tell stories of their becoming. She will focus on stories beyond the violence and "breaking news" that are rooted in the Palestinian collective consciousness. She will also address limitations and opportunities of journalism as memory work — how it makes the collective memory accessible but also subject to revisions.