Cornell University Press

The Palestinian Response to Liberation from Colonialization

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Despite the expectations of experts, Hamas has persisted as both an armed resistance to Israeli settler colonial rule and as a governing body. Decolonizing Palestine rejects the notion that liberation from colonialization exists as a singular moment in history when the colonizer is ousted by the colonized, examining the two seemingly contradictory, yet coexistent, anticolonial and postcolonial modes of politics adopted by Hamas following the organization’s unexpected victory in the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council election.

Author Somdeep Sen talks about his experience researching in the West Bank and the process of writing his first book in this Q&A.

1. What’s your favorite anecdote from your research for this book?

During my fieldwork in the occupied West Bank, a Palestinian friend would often accompany me to interviews. I considered him a source of support in a “dangerous” field. At the end of my fieldwork, I thanked him for “keeping me safe”. He seemed genuinely baffled and said, “keep you safe? I thought you were keeping me safe?”. I said, “I’m brown. Israeli soldiers think I’m Palestinian. How am I supposed to keep you safe?”. We laughed. However, in that moment the complicated nature of the relationship between the researcher and the gatekeeper became clear. This is the very stuff that makes ethnographic research a complex, yet captivating endeavor.

2. What do you wish you had known when you started writing your book, that you know now?

I found the task of writing my first book to be daunting – not least because I was now writing for an audience that went far beyond the safety net of my supervisors and doctoral assessment committee. Intimidated, it can be easy to become apologetic in one’s writing style. And, when I began writing this book, I became overly concerned with positioning myself in the field and this drowned out my own voice. At that point, I wish someone had reminded me that my perspective needs to take center stage and that the reader is concerned not with what others have said about the topic but with how I view the subject matter at hand.

3. How do you wish you could change the field of Anthropology?

I often find that anthropological knowledge is not valued enough within the social sciences. My hope is that there is greater recognition of the importance of the anthropological, nitty-gritty and everyday perspective on life and politics. Here, we must remember, how things happen is what they are. That is to say, how institutions, ideologies, policies, laws etc. manifest in the everyday is what truly personifies their character. And, as a discipline, it is anthropology that is best equipped with the conceptual outlook and methodological tools to give us access to this knowledge.

*Featured photo by Nour Tayeh.

Somdeep Sen is Associate Professor at Roskilde University. He is coauthor of The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Follow him on Twitter @ssen03.

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