Indigenous exile: Sophia Brown, Forms of Exile: Contemporary Palestinian Life Writing, PhD dissertation, University of Kent, 2017

14Oct17

Abstract: This thesis is an examination of contemporary exilic Palestinian life writing in English. Attentive to the ongoing nature of Palestinian dispossession since 1948, it focuses on how exile is narrated and the ways in which it informs models of selfhood within a context of conflict and loss. This involves adopting a framework of settler colonialism in order to understand the conflict. Broadly speaking, the thesis conceives of Palestinian life writing as a form of testimony posing an urgent and necessary counternarrative to the hegemony of the Israeli discourse on Palestine/Israel. The thesis examines life writing by different generations of Palestinians, from those who experienced the Nakba of 1948, to those born as second-generation Palestinians in their parents’ adopted homelands. It does not limit itself to examining the work of those at a geographical distance from Palestine but also looks at narratives by those who live, or have lived, under Israeli occupation. This has required paying particular attention to the difference between ‘internal’ and ‘external’ exile. Recognising that Palestinians who live in Palestine/Israel still sometimes articulate their experience as a form of exiling is an integral aspect of this research. The thesis argues that while the ongoing conflict impacts the identity formation and experiences of all the writers under consideration, nonetheless each author is inevitably guided by distinct geographies, temporalities, imaginings and frames of reference, which ultimately determine their relationship to Palestine and what it means to consider themselves exiled. I am, therefore, particularly mindful of the plurality of exilic experience, even while ideas of communality are still hugely important. The thesis consists of three author-led chapters – on Edward Said, Ghada Karmi and Rema Hammami – followed by a final chapter on anthologised life writing, which looks at the work of seven authors. Raising questions of form and how one deals with both the commonality and complexity of exile, this final chapter aims to show recent developments in English-language Palestinian life writing. By demonstrating the distinct ways in which exiled Palestinians relate to Palestine/Israel, this thesis seeks to contribute in particular towards two areas of study that have, for the most part, failed to engage substantially enough with Palestine (or, indeed, with each other): postcolonial and auto/biography studies. These subfields of cultural criticism and their wealth of scholarship therefore provide the necessary tools for this research, but they are also held to account for the relative lack of attention paid to Palestine and the extant nature of the conflict. Ultimately, I hope to demonstrate that exilic Palestinian life writing sheds its own light on matters of great import to postcolonial and auto/biography studies – matters such as statelessness, belonging, testimony, selfhood and self- representation – and that there are intersecting aesthetic and ethical reasons for ensuring the visibility of Palestine within these areas of study.



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