Olive trees as sites of resistance; resisting settler colonialism one tree at a time: Lila Sharif, ‘Savory Colonialism: Land, Memory, and the Eco-occupation of Palestine’, Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, 11, 2, 2015 pp. 256-257
Excerpt: As Palestinians continue to experience the violent decimation of their olive groves, the consumption of Palestinian olive oil grows increasingly popular through transnational fair trade circuits. A feminized commodity from the “land of milk and honey,” olive oil has emerged as a signifier of Palestinian femininity and indigeneity pitched to the conscientious palate. I use the Palestinian olive as an optic to explore the convergence of settler colonialism, environmental destruction, neoliberal multiculturalism, consumption, and desire through multisited and multisensory ethnography in a transnational feminist cultural studies framework. Tracing the production, circulation, consumption, and representation of Palestinian olives, I argue that settler colonialism relies on gendered logics of disappearing native peoples, lands, and cultures. I analyze the neoliberal consumption of Palestinian olive oil and visual representations in contemporary television shows, like Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, against the ongoing disappearing of Palestinian landscapes. While Palestinian olives are often represented as part of Palestinian dispossession, my ethnographic findings indicate that tasting, eating, and cooking animate alternative ways of narrating history and reanchoring Palestinians to their land. In particular, I show how Palestinian women use food to connect back to villages depopulated during and following the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe). This dissertation project asks new theoretical questions about settler colonialism as a process of vanishing native peoples and their subjectivities, one that coresides with neoliberal, multicultural tropes of consumption and desire. I introduce a framework I call transnational feminist food studies: an epistemology and methodological practice that explores how food mediates power but also challenges hegemonic narratives of colonialism and other structures of power. Transnational feminist food studies serves as an innovative intervention in cultural studies, food studies, post-colonial theory, and environmental justice.
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