Who Will We Be When We Are Free? On Palestine and Futurity

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Five years after the beginning of a conversation with The Funambulist, Sophia Azeb continues to reflect for us on the futures of Palestine. While we have talked in the past about what she calls “the no-state solution,” she focuses here on what Palestinianness will mean when Palestine is free.

Article published in The Funambulist 24 (July-August 2019) Futurisms. Click here to access the rest of the issue.

There are in every part of the world men who search.

I am not a prisoner of history. I should not seek there for the meaning of my destiny. […]

In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.

I am a part of Being to the degree that I go beyond it.” (Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, 1952)

The boy went back to his family there, in the distance, in a distance he did not find there in the distance. My grandfather died with his gaze fixed on a land imprisoned behind a fence. A land whose skin they have changed from wheat, sesame, maize, watermelons, and honeydews to tough apples.” (Mahmoud Darwish, “Memory for Forgetfulness,” 1995)

What if we became Palestinians, together, in catastrophe? That we have been formed and effaced in catastrophe, that our community — the Palestinians, so broadly imagined — comes to know itself and ourselves as Palestinian(s), again and again, through the forever-catastrophe? What if it is also true that our Palestinianness continuously manifests itself in our suspended state of catastrophe? Might we understand ourselves as always in the process of becoming Palestinian?

What if the meaning of the disaster was our Palestinianness? These provocations are not a question of our existence as Palestinians. It is not an affirmation or acknowledgement of the genocidal claim that “there is no such thing [person, people, us?] as a Palestinian,” an assertion borne of a particular settler colonial ideology and of the Occupation which continues to structure our catastrophe. Rather, the purpose of asking such a question is attuned to a future-oriented praxis of Being — of being Palestinian. It is a declaration that our Palestinianness will not always be tied to the Nakba. How we make meaning of ourselves and our being as Palestinian when we are no longer beholden to understanding ourselves in the shadows of disaster is not just a passing whim, a theoretical exercise. To ask how and who we are now and who will be when we are free insists that our future-selves are always in sight, that our freedom is always in sight.