The Struggle for Lifta: Home, Memory, and Future in the Last "Nakba Village"

Authors: Nathan Swanson*, Purdue University
Topics: Middle East, Political Geography, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: Palestine-Israel, settler-colonialism, memory, home, future
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Forum Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


At a time of mass displacement across the Middle East, Palestinian refugees of the 1948 war—and their descendants—remain at the center of the world’s longest-running, unresolved refugee situation. Approaching seventy years since the war that would become known as both the Israeli War of Independence and the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe), the longevity of the Palestinian refugee issue is widely linked to the failure of the official “peace process” that began in the 1990s with the purported aim of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While this diplomatic process has shaped political, media, and even academic discourses on the conflict, it has also marginalized many realities and perspectives on the ground, particularly those related to everyday life and to intimate spaces like the home and village. This disconnect becomes particularly clear in the case of Lifta, the last depopulated Palestinian village from the 1948 war still standing today. In this paper, drawing from fieldwork in Jerusalem, I tell the story of this village and the efforts by refugees and their descendants to save its ruins from an Israeli development project. Through discussions of memory, identity, and plans for the future in Lifta, I trace entanglements of geopolitics in the experiences of home and community for displaced Palestinians of the village. Underscoring the centrality of concerns over the intimate and the everyday for refugees, this research speaks more broadly to efforts toward peace, justice, and security for refugees in Israel/Palestine and beyond.

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