Becoming in the Open Space of History: Imagining Alternative Possible Futures in Palestine/Israel through the Words and Images of Mahmoud Darwish, Mustafa Hallaj and Edward Said.

Monday, 11 July 2016: 11:30
Location: Hörsaal 34 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Nina BUTLER, Rhodes University, South Africa
It is international consensus that the most favourable outcome of the Middle East Peace Process is a ‘two-state solution’. It is not obvious or certain that a perpetuation of the entrenched binary in national identification – Palestine/Israel – is at all a favourable, just, and peace-enabling solution. What is most remarkable about this is not just how unsuccessful attempts at this solution have been, but that there are no viable alternative solutions imagined and tabled other than that of ‘binationalism’, which also perpetuates instantiated nationalism in the region. This presentation attempts to contemplate alternative futures through Edward Said’s writings in After the Last Sky, Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry in Unfortunately it Was Paradise, and Palestinian artist Mustafa Hallaj’s endeavour to ‘rewrite’ a history of the region based upon synthesis, multiple perspectives and cyclical time. Focus is placed on historiographical temporality, and the role ‘ways of seeing’ the past have in conceptualising and enabling an alternative future. What these Palestinian voices reveal is potential for the construction of a sense of self and one’s community in terms of open incompleteness, and a disposition to the past and future as integrative and fluid. This view is exilic and not tied to dogmatic ideas of a homeland, but rather finds a homeland within the expression of self. Furthermore, this view is the foundation for a postnational identification that frees up the weighted and reflexive histories for Palestinians and Israelis.

It is postulated that this view of temporality is in keeping with Martin Heidegger’s notion of time as ‘ecstatic’ in Being and Time. Heidegger offers a refutation of teleology, and along with it historicism. This paper thus argues that a decontextualisation of the prosaic ‘historical separateness’ of Zionist and Palestinian national narratives could palpably assist in the imagination of alternative futures that are more equitable.