A Geneology of Political Proof: One Hundred Years of Investigative Commissions to Palestine, 1919-2009
My book will be a historical ethnography of Palestinian nationalism as it developed in dialectic tension with Israel’s legacy as a refuge for the Jews. I will examine this history as a key aspect of the development of a global politics of suffering and human rights that emerged in response to World War II and the Holocaust. Through a history of international investigative commissions that have visited Palestine-Israel, I will examine how political struggles rooted in concepts of humanity and suffering emerged, paying particular attention to what happened to Palestinian political appeals in the wake of the Holocaust with the establishment of the UN and the international human rights regime.
?There is a tension in that Palestinians make their political appeals in a language of victimisation through human rights discourse and practices, which consists of a set of norms and institutions that emerged after World War II out of the traumatic historical experience of the Jews, during the same period that Israel achieved statehood. Are Palestinians confined within a paradigm that already defines them as inadequate to the standards of suffering set by the iconic tragedy of the Holocaust?
Although historians and political scientists have written about the numerous commissions to Palestine individually, none has focused on Arabs’ contributions. Nor have they been examined together as a series or been viewed as a history of transregional knowledge production. My exploration of how Palestinians' political claims have been made and framed to cross borders and cultural divides, in part through a language of universal human suffering, and the politicisation of victimhood that has emerged in that process, will provide insights into the changing nature of the human rights and UN system more broadly.
Lori Allen is an Early Career Fellow at CRASSH, Michaelmas 2011.
She is currently a University Lecturer in Contemporary Middle Eastern Politics & Society. She is an anthropologist whose primary research interests center on human rights, nationalism, violence, visual culture, political emotion, and the Middle East.
She is currently conducting archival research for her book project, Suffering for Rights: A Geneaology of Palestinian Nationalism, which is a historical-ethnographic inquiry into the political practices and discourses framed by the concepts of rights and suffering in Palestinian politics, from the 1920s to the present.
She was awarded her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2005 and subsequently enjoyed postdoctoral fellowships at Brown University’s Pembroke Center, and at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies.
She is a founding member of the Task Force on Middle East Anthropology, a group dedicated to increasing the relevance, visibility, and application of anthropological perspectives on the Middle East, a member of MESA’s Committee on Academic Freedom, and an emerita Editorial Committee member for Middle East Report.