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Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory

Edited by Ahmad H. Sa'di and Lila Abu-Lughod

Columbia University Press


For outside observers, current events in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank are seldom related to the collective memory of ordinary Palestinians. But for Palestinians themselves, the iniquities of the present are experienced as a continuous replay of the injustice of the past.

By focusing on memories of the Nakba or "catastrophe" of 1948, in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were dispossessed to create the state of Israel, the contributors to this volume illuminate the contemporary Palestinian experience and clarify the moral claims they make for justice and redress.

The book's essays consider the ways in which Palestinians have remembered and organized themselves around the Nakba, a central trauma that continues to be refracted through Palestinian personal and collective memory. Analyzing oral histories and written narratives, poetry and cinema, personal testimony and courtroom evidence, the authors show how the continuing experience of violence, displacement, and occupation have transformed the pre-Nakba past and the land of Palestine into symbols of what has been and continues to be lost.

Nakba brings to light the different ways in which Palestinians experienced and retain in memory the events of 1948. It is the first book to examine in detail how memories of Palestine's cataclysmic past are shaped by differences of class, gender, generation, and geographical location. In exploring the power of the past, the authors show the urgency of the question of memory for understanding the contested history of the present. 

Contributors: Lila Abu Lughod, Columbia University; Diana Keown Allan, Harvard University; Haim Bresheeth, University of East London; Rochelle Davis, Georgetown University; Samera Esmeir, University of California, Berkeley; Isabelle Humphries, University of Surrey; Lena Jayyusi, Zayed University; Laleh Khalili, SOAS, University of London; Omar Al-Qattan, filmmaker; Ahmad H. Sa'di, Ben-Gurion University; Rosemary Sayigh, Lebanon-based anthropologist; Susan Slyomovics, University of California, Los Angeles


Ahmad H. Sa'di is a senior lecturer in the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He has published widely on political, social, and economic aspects of the lives of Palestinians in Israel.Lila Abu-Lughod is professor of anthropology and gender studies at Columbia University. Her books include Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society; Writing Women's Worlds: Bedouin Stories; and Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt.
Lila Abu Lughod: Professor of Anthropology and Women's Studies at Columbia University. She has published or edited many books including: Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society (California, 2000); Writing Women's World: Bedouin Stories (California, 1993); Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East (Princeton, 1998); and, Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt (Chicago, 2004). Although most of her ethnographic research has been on Egypt, she has begun to publish on Palestinian documentary film, ethnography, and memory. Her articles have appeared in journals including the American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Social Text, and Feminist Studies. Ahmad H. Sa'di: Lecturer in the department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University, Israel. His work has focused on democratic politics and issues of citizenship, the impact of local political organizations and personalities on the course of political and social history, on the problems of majority/minority relations, and on labor and economic conditions of Israel's Arab 'minority.' He has published numerous articles in journals including Sociology; Work, Employment and Society; International Journal of Intercultural Relations; Social Identities; Arab Studies Quarterly; Asian Journal of Social Sciences; Social Text; The Japan Center For Area Studies Review; Israel Studies; and British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. His most recent work has been on Al-Nakbah in Palestinian collective memory.



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