Applying Black Radical Thought to Palestinian film and media

This week in North Philly Notes, Greg Burris, author of The Palestinian Idea, writes about Black-Palestinian solidarity.

When I look at Israel today, I see Jim Crow. But when I look at Palestine, I think of Black liberation. The potential for such comparisons is evident in the words and actions of three figures in the U.S. who have recently come under fire for their support of Palestine: Ilhan Omar, Angela Davis, and Marc Lamont Hill. Omar was accused of being an anti-Semite after she took to Twitter to criticize AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee). Davis had a civil rights award from an institute in her hometown of Birmingham revoked as a result of her long-standing advocacy of Palestinian liberation. Hill was fired from CNN after he called for a free Palestine in a speech before the United Nations. Besides their support for Palestine, however, these three figures also share another important feature. They are all Black.

By vocally championing the Palestinian cause, each of these people is building upon a foundation of Black-Palestinian solidarity first laid over half a century ago by figures and groups like Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and the Black Panther Party. While in the past these radical ties were developed through traditional media and the printed word, today they are more often forged through YouTube videos, Instagram photos, and Facebook friend requests. In the hyper-connected, social media-saturated, wireless-enabled world in which we live, Black-Palestinian solidarity has gained new visibility.

The Palestinian Idea_061818_smIn recent years, this web of transnational solidarity has received growing scholarly attention, resulting in the proliferation of journal essays, conference panels, and even book-length treatments. In my book, The Palestinian Idea: Film, Media, and the Radical Imagination, I seek to contribute to this solidarity network but not in the way one might expect. Only one chapter is specifically about Black-Palestinian solidarity, but this powerful cocktail of radical thought permeates the entire book. Thus, while the subject of The Palestinian Idea is Palestinian film and media, I tackle it through the lens of Black radical thought. Peppered throughout the book are the words and insights of thinkers like James Cone, C.L.R. James, Audre Lorde, and Assata Shakur, and the book’s theoretical foundation is based largely on the work of my late mentor Cedric Robinson, theorist of the Black Radical Tradition. Thus, while other books chronicle Black-Palestinian solidarity empirically, The Palestinian Idea seeks to take our analysis underground. That is, the book asks how these two powerful traditions of insurgency can speak to each other at the subterranean level, the level of theory, ontology, and epistemology. Exciting things can happen when Palestinian liberation rubs shoulders with Black Power.

As a young, white kid growing up in the post-Jim Crow South, I was greatly troubled by the black-and-white pictures I saw of angry white mobs terrorizing righteous Black heroes. Just twenty years before I was born, the white community of my own hometown had viciously tried to prevent Black students from integrating the local high school and college. Those snapshots of white hatred haunted me, and I remember wondering if I would have had the courage to stand up against it had I been alive at the time. Today, Jim Crow speaks Hebrew. Indeed, how else are we to make sense of the growing network of segregated streets and apartheid walls, the destruction of houses and theft of indigenous lands, the language of ethnic supremacy and hierarchical division. The Israelis even have a word for it: hafrada or separation. Just as Jim Crow had its Black resistors, Zionism has its Palestinian freedom fighters. If we can compare one, why not compare the other?

Thus, today’s Black advocates for Palestine—people like Ilhan Omar, Angela Davis, and Marc Lamont Hill—are doing important work. The hyperbolic reaction their words received proves what we all know to be true, that criticizing Israel is still a dangerous endeavor. Indeed, for some, it can even be career-ending. But there is another lesson here as well, and their words also demonstrate that Black-Palestinian solidarity is still going strong. If today’s racists build walls—whether in Palestine or on the U.S.-Mexico border—it is our job to tear them down. Indeed, that is what the Palestinian Idea is all about.

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Temple University Press’ Spring 2019 Catalog

This week in North Philly Notes, we feature highlights from our Spring 2019 catalog.

sp19 cover As the cover of this catalog proclaims, 2019 is the Press’s 50th anniversary, and there’s much to celebrate.

We’ve published more than 1600 titles in the past five decades, starting with Marxism and Radical Religion: Essays Toward a Revolutionary Humanism, edited by John C. Raines and Thomas Dean. Since that auspicious beginning, Temple University Press has dedicated itself to publishing socially engaged scholarship. Our list is chock-full of titles related to social justice and social change. We pride ourselves on being pioneers in advancing the scholarly value and social importance of disciplines such as women’s studies, ethnic studies, and the study of race. To that end, we launched highly regarded lists in African American studies and Latin American and Latino/a studies and a field-shaping series in Asian American studies. We’ve been recognized for publishing award-winning titles in urban studies, political science, and gender and sexuality studies. And we have the premiere list of titles on Philadelphia and the region, from arts and culture to history and sports and more.

The titles in this catalog are built upon the strengths of our past. They in turn lay the groundwork for our next 50 years. If past is prologue, our future looks bright. Here’s to 50 more years!—MARY ROSE MUCCIE,  Director


Highlights from the Spring Catalog include: 
contested_image_smThomas Eakins’ 1875 painting, The Gross Clinic, the Rocky Statue, and the Barnes Foundation are all iconic in Philadelphia for different reasons. But around the year 2000, this painting, this sculpture, and this entire art collection, respectively, generated extended—and heated—controversies about the “appropriate” location for each item. Contested Image revisits the debates that surrounded these works of visual culture and how each item changed through acts of reception—through the ways that viewers looked at, talked about, and used these objects to define their city.

Laura Holzman investigates the negotiations and spirited debates that affected the city of Philadelphia’s identity and its public image. She considers how the region’s cultural resources reshaped the city’s reputation as well as delves into discussions about official efforts to boost local spirit. In tracking these “contested images,” Holzman illuminates the messy process of public envisioning of place and the ways in which public dialogue informs public meaning of both cities themselves and the objects of urban identity.


getting_away_from_it_all_smVacations are a delimited period during which social rules and responsibilities are eased, removed, or shifted, and people have increased autonomy over what they choose to do. Recent trends in the travel industry emphasize the appeal of vacations for voluntary identity changes—when bankers can become bikers for a week or when “Momcations” allow mothers to leave their families behind. But how do our vacations allow us to shape our identity?

Getting Away from It All is a study of individuality and flexibility and the intersection of self-definition and social constraint. Karen Stein interviews vacationers about their travels and down time, focusing on “identity transitions.” She shows how objects, settings, temporal environments and social interactions limit or facilitate identity shifts, and how we arrange our vacations to achieve the shifts we desire. Stein also looks at the behavior, values, attitudes, and worldview of individuals to illuminate how people engage in either identity work or identity play.

Vacations say a lot about individuals. They signal class and economic standing and reveal aspirations and goals. Getting Away from It All insists that vacations are about more than just taking time off to relax and rejuvenate—they are about having some time to work on the person one wants to be.


in_the_weeds_smMore and more states are legalizing marijuana in some form. Moreover, a majority of the U.S. population is in favor of legalizing the drug for recreational use. In the Weeds looks at how our society has become more permissive in the past 150 years—even though marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug by the American government.

Sociologists Clayton Mosher and Scott Akins take a deep dive into marijuana policy reform, looking at the incremental developments and the historical, legal, social, and political implications of these changes. They investigate the effects, medicinal applications, and possible harms of marijuana. In the Weeds also considers arguments that youth will be heavy users of legalized cannabis, and shows how “weed” is demonized by exaggerations of the drug’s risks and claims that it lacks medicinal value. Mosher and Akins end their timely and insightful book by tracing the distinct paths to the legalization of recreational marijuana in the United States and other countries as well as discussing what the future of marijuana law holds.


the_palestinian_idea_061818_smIs there a link between the colonization of Palestinian lands and the enclosing of Palestinian minds? The Palestinian Idea argues that it is precisely through film and media that hope can occasionally emerge amidst hopelessness, emancipation amidst oppression, freedom amidst apartheid. Greg Burris employs the work of Edward W. Said, Jacques Rancière, and Cedric J. Robinson in order to locate Palestinian utopia in the heart of the Zionist present.

He analyzes the films of prominent directors Annemarie Jacir ( Salt of This Sea, When I Saw You) and Hany Abu-Assad ( Paradise Now) to investigate the emergence and formation of Palestinian identity. Looking at Mais Darwazah’s documentary My Love Awaits Me By the Sea, Burris considers the counterhistories that make up the Palestinian experience—stories and memories that have otherwise been obscured or denied. He also examines Palestinian (in)visibility in the global media landscape, and how issues of Black-Palestinian transnational solidarity are illustrated through social media, staged news spectacles, and hip hop music.

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