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And I Hallucinate in No-Man's Land": Arab-Palestinian Writers in Hebrew

Research profile seminar, Lecture

Reuven Snir, Universitet i Haifa, gästföreläser inom forskningsområdet Språk, litteratur och kulturalitet vid institutionen för språk och litteraturer. Alla intresserade är välkomna!


"And I Hallucinate in the No-Man's Land": Arab-Palestinian Authors in Hebrew

Palestinian literature in Israel is characterized by strong opposition and resistance-based themes that attempt to undermine the hegemonic political and cultural control of the Jews, especially in response to the attempts to absorb the minority into a larger, collective, Hebrew-based culture.
Against this background of nationalistic conflict, in which the Jewish majority still leans on patterns of expression typical for a minority struggling for its existence, there are a handful of Arab-Palestinian writers who have chosen to write in Hebrew in addition to their Arabic literary writing. Such lingual literary dualism is not uncommon in societies in which a minority culture evolves along with a majority culture, however, in Israel, where Arabic language enjoys a special position in the religious and cultural heritage of the minority, this phenomenon has been generally limited to marginal groups of the minority i.e., Druze and Christian writers.

The literary activities of these writers are characterized by their membership in two different, even "hostile" literary systems: the Arabic cultural system, where they were born and made their first contributions; and the Hebrew system, into which they were thrown against their will, though they later embraced its language and consciously employed it as an aesthetic preference. Nevertheless, they always rebel against the exclusive ownership of the Jews over the Hebrew language as well as against the ethnic norm which identifies each Hebrew author as a Jew. From their point of view, Hebrew has ceased to function as the language of Zionism, the liberation movement of the Jewish people, and has become the language of all Israel's citizens regardless of any religious faith or ethnic belonging. In their efforts to transform the connection between identity, language, and territory, they focus on "un-Jewing" Hebrew, i.e., "deterritorialization," of the language which is accompanied by a perpetual process of its "reterritorialization."

However, the nature of contemporary Hebrew literature and the directions of its development, like those of Arabic-Palestinian literature, do not leave any room for doubt that the hope to expand the boundaries of Hebrew literature and to create a new Israeli comprehensive cultural identity is nothing but a daydream. Moreover, not only do these Palestinian authors fail in transforming the norm that identifies every Hebrew writer as a Jew, but their very literary and cultural activities serve to confirm it. They are not only marginal and exceptional writers in their natural cultural milieu, but they also do not enter the gates of Hebrew literature as proud Arab-Palestinians. On the contrary, as lost and lonely wolves, slowly losing their connection with their roots and caught in an acute identity crisis, they enter a demanding cultural system that labels them as exceptional (but at the same time "entitled" to politically-correct benefits for being representatives of a repressed minority) but, on the other hand, compels them to be adaptable. It is hard not to understand in this manner the motto chosen by Anton Shammas, the prominent of these writers, for the first five chapters of Arabesques, taken from George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion: "You told me, you know, that when a child is brought to a foreign country, it picks up the language in a few weeks, and forgets its own. Well. I am a child in your country".


Reuven Snir, professor i arabisk litteratur vid Universitet i Haifa, Israel

Date: 10/17/2017

Time: 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Categories: Humanities, Research, Language

Organizer: institutionen för språk och litteraturer

Location: H421

Contact person: Linda K. Hammarfelt

Page Manager: |Last update: 1/14/2009

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