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Occupied by Memory

The Intifada Generation and the Palestinian State of Emergency

John Collins

Publication Year: 2004

Occupied by Memory explores the memories of the first Palestinian intifada. Based on extensive interviews with members of the "intifada generation," those who were between 10 and 18 years old when the intifada began in 1987, the book provides a detailed look at the intifada memories of ordinary Palestinians.

These personal stories are presented as part of a complex and politically charged discursive field through which young Palestinians are invested with meaning by scholars, politicians, journalists, and other observers. What emerges from their memories is a sense of a generation caught between a past that is simultaneously traumatic, empowering, and exciting—and a future that is perpetually uncertain. In this sense, Collins argues that understanding the stories and the struggles of the intifada generation is a key to understanding the ongoing state of emergency for the Palestinian people. The book will be of interest not only to scholars of the Middle East but also to those interested in nationalism, discourse analysis, social movements, and oral history.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. ix

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Note on Transliteration

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p. xi

In the case of place names (e.g., Balata) or the names and pseudonyms of Palestinians discussed and quoted in the book, I have only transliterated the ayn and the hamza. In the case of authors (e.g., Kanaana), I have simply followed the spelling used in the specific text to which I am referring. There are also a number of Arabic words (most...

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pp. xiii-xvi

That this book exists at all is a testament to the many Palestinians, in Balata camp and elsewhere, who helped me in innumerable ways during the research process despite the trying times in which they were living. Some agreed to be interviewed formally; others offered their time for casual conversations, impromptu Arabic lessons and political...

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Prologue: Approaching a Permanent State of Emergency

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pp. 1-9

This is a book about the possibilities of memory. It is rooted in the belief that thinking and talking about the past is a worthwhile enterprise, but one that is inevitably marked by uncertainty. No mere exercise in simple recollection or in repeating received ideas, an active engagement with the past is necessarily about the present and the future as...

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1. Production Notes

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pp. 10-34

There is nothing simple about memory. Both seductive and perilous, memory can be a site of trauma, a place where the past “flashes up at a moment of danger” (Benjamin 1968c) only to disappear as soon as we try to grasp it and pin it down. Memory can be a tool in the hands of emperors, presidents, corporations, and others who seek to extend...

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2. “Gaza Is Ruled by a Child”: The Intifada and the Rhetoric of Generation

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pp. 35-74

The emergence of young people as political actors can generate a diverse field of discourses, opening up new possibilities for representing the relationship between the nation and its children. At no time was this more evident in Palestine than at the beginning of the intifada; while sophisticated analysis of the role of young people was lacking at...

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3. Between Romance and Tragedy: A Balata Family Confronts the Present

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pp. 75-110

My initial entry into mukhayyam Balata was accomplished in part through the assistance of Ashraf, a twenty-four-year-old resident of the camp whom I met while he was working in Ramallah. Having just graduated from An-Najah University in Nablus, Ashraf took an immediate interest in my desire to interview members of his generation....

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4. The Secret Locations of Memory: Political Lessons at Home and in Prison

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pp. 111-140

Telling the story of one’s childhood or youth in terms of the places that inhabit one’s memory is a convention with a long history in the genre of autobiographical writing. An excellent example is Walter Benjamin’s “A Berlin Chronicle,” in which the German philosopher likens his memories of childhood in Berlin to “the ground . . . in which...

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5. The Testing Grounds of Memory: Social Inversion at School and in the Streets

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pp. 141-162

The kind of hermeneutic reversal discussed in the previous chapter, in which interviewees reformulated the prison as a space of political action and personal growth, is largely absent from narratives focusing on the school (madrasa) and the street (shārefi). The difference, I argue, lies in the nature of the spaces involved. As we have seen, attempts...

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6. “In the Beginning . . . but Afterward . . .”: Moral Chronologies and Reassessments of the Intifada

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pp. 163-210

In conducting popular memory research, I often found that my own desire to explore the “subjective” recesses of memory seemed to conflict with the expectations many interviewees brought to the conversation. These expectations, I think, were rooted in the assumption— mistaken perhaps, but entirely understandable—that despite my stated...

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7. Postscript: A Permanent State of Emergency (continued)

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pp. 211-228

A thirty-three-year-old man is speaking to a reporter from the Toronto Star in Balata camp, which the reporter refers to as a “destitute rabbit’s warren of back alleys.” The young man, who calls himself “Abu Walid” in the nom de guerre tradition of an earlier generation, is one of the leaders of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, formed by Fateh activists in...

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Appendix. The Intifada: A Brief Overview

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pp. 229-233

The misleading language of the “peace process” notwithstanding, the Palestinian struggle continues to be an anticolonial one rooted in the historical and material realities of Israeli domination. In this context, Israel’s capture of the remaining territories of historic Palestine during the 1967 War appears not as an accident of war, but rather as an...


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pp. 235-252

Glossary of Arabic Terms

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pp. 253-254


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pp. 255-266


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pp. 267-284

About the Author

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p. 285

E-ISBN-13: 9780814772423
E-ISBN-10: 0814772420
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814716373
Print-ISBN-10: 0814716377

Page Count: 302
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 76898860
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Occupied by Memory

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Memory -- Political aspects.
  • Youth, Palestinian Arab -- Political activity -- Gaza Strip.
  • Memory -- Social aspects.
  • Palestinian Arabs -- Gaza Strip -- Social conditions.
  • Youth, Palestinian Arab -- Political activity -- West Bank.
  • Intifada, 1987-1993 -- Influence.
  • Palestinian Arabs -- West Bank -- Social conditions.
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