The Time Beneath the Concrete: Camp, Colony, Palestine
Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern and North African Studies, Bowdoin College
Thinking from Palestine: Dispossession, Liberation, and Return
Conversations on Three Recent and Forthcoming Books
Discussant: Sharad Chari, Geography, UC Berkeley
The question of settler colonialism has, once again, risen to the surface of global politics. But what exactly about settler colonialism makes it so unstable a political formation? Why is it that centuries after their foundational events, even allegedly “postcolonial” settler states seem so often stricken with malaise and enmity that continuously open up “old” wounds and pose existential anxieties anew? The Time Beneath the Concrete argues that settler colonialism is always as much a conquest of time as a conquest of land; it is everywhere a particularly, even peculiarly, fraught struggle over time—perhaps nowhere more so today than in the struggle over Palestine. To read this struggle, the book enacts a shift in method: it tells the story of the Palestinian question by telling the story of the Palestinian refugee camp as a political object. From and through the camps, we can approach the heart of this story—and this is my main argument—as a struggle over historical time that has reached an impasse. From the camps, we see Israel as a settler-colonial project defined by its inability to move past the past, a project stuck at its foundational moment of conquest. And we see the Palestinian insistence on return as a refusal to abide by the closure of the past into settler futurity. Palestinian struggle does not just happen in the open time of dispossession; it happens over this time. It is thus a form of anticolonial refusal that draws its power not from any decisive finality, but precisely from irresolution and keeping time open.
Nasser Abourahme is a writer and academic, and currently assistant professor of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at Bowdoin College. He works between comparative colonial history, political geography, and political theory, and has published broadly across journals and edited collections. His book, The Time Beneath the Concrete: Camp, Colony, Palestine, is forthcoming with Duke University Press.
Presented by the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of California, Berkeley. Co-sponsored by the UC Berkeley Department of Rhetoric and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.
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