“Fossilised lives!” Refugees, settler colonialism and the reordering of life and non-life in Palestine.
A guest lecture by Professor Ruba Salih, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.
The acclaimed book Palestinian walks. Forays into a vanishing landscape (2007) by Palestinian writer Raja Shehadeh opens with the author’s sorrow realisation that the historical landscape of Palestine – which would have still looked familiar to a Christ contemporary until not long ago – has, in a few decades, been transformed “beyond recognition”. Notably, along with the displacement of people, the taming or destruction of nature is a fundamental aspect of settler colonialism and Palestine makes no exception. In this paper, however, the argument is that settler colonialism does not merely attempt to destroy nature as matter, but operates an ontological distinction between deserving and non-deserving forms of human and non-human life. In Palestine, a settler nature was imposed while indigenous human and non-human life was violently ‘fossilised’ in the process. Yet, this is a necessarily incomplete and unstable form of power. The ethnographic material collected among Palestinian refugees presented here points to an antagonism to the process of settlers’ indigenization, as does the unruly and unpredictable work of nature itself which is here analysed as ruination – an enmeshment of human and non-human life- that did not cease to produce its effects with the destruction of the native natural and social habitats, but continued to testify to their deep reciprocal encroachment.
A light lunch will be served.