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Colonial Ruins and Decolonized Futures: Demanding a Return that is Possible

Authors: Jennifer Kelly*, University of California - Santa Cruz
Topics: Middle East, Ethnicity and Race, Tourism Geography
Keywords: Palestine, Right of Return, Colonialism, Solidarity, Precarity, Futurity
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Queer studies scholars have debated the utility of hope as a political strategy (Duggan and Muñoz 2009) and have insisted on demanding the impossible (Spade 2013). Work on Palestine, meanwhile, has demonstrated the dual commitment to pessimism and optimism (Habiby 1974), the contortions of hope under occupation (Said 1996; Makdisi 2008), and the generative potential of Palestinian cynicism for diagnosing the colonial present and demanding a decolonized future (Allen 2013; Gregory 2004). Pairing ethnographic fieldwork in Palestine with insights culled from feminist scholars of settler colonialism in Palestine (Kanaaneh 2002; Shohat, 2006; Stein 2008; Stoler 2013), this paper takes up these questions of violence, precarity, and possibility. Drawing from Palestinian-led solidarity tours inside Israel’s 1948 borders, and interviews with Palestinian citizens of Israel who lead tours of this sort and the U.S. tourists who take them, I ask what kinds of futurity these itineraries imagine. Tours within Israel’s 1948 borders address the ongoing erasure of Palestine and partner with West Bank Palestinian organizations in order to imagine and blueprint a future animated by the return of Palestinian refugees. Their work insists that the occupation is not circumscribed to only the West Bank and that the expulsion of Palestinians did not begin and end in 1948. Taking these tours – and the labor of tour guides – as its subject, this paper shows how the visions of space charted through these tours are decolonized ones: a landscape made possible only through upending the racialized and gendered inequities of the colonial present.

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