Panel 2I

Nativists, Nations and Knowledge: Arab Agency in the Archaeology and Anthropology of pre-1948 Palestine

13.45 – 15.45
Chair: Benjamin Thomas White, University of Glasgow

Whose History? Arab Agency in the Archaeology of Late Ottoman Palestine

Sarah Irving, Edge Hill University

The stereotypical image of early archaeological explorations in the Middle East is one of pith hats and lone gentleman scholars. In fact, after Petrie’s revolution in how excavations were conducted, many digs employed hundreds of Arab workers in roles which were often – but not always – heavy manual labour. The main exceptions were the Arab foremen who oversaw the day-to-day conduct of excavations and who, when Western scholars returned home or moved to other institutions or interests, often represented the most extensive stores of institutional knowledge and information about the finds and practices on previous sites. As translators of their languages and cultures they also often influenced the ways in which finds were ‘read’ by professional archaeologists. This paper outlines the life and work of Yusif Khattar Kana’an, a Lebanese Christian foreman, translator and fixer who ran Palestine Exploration Fund digs from the mid-1890s until WWII. It traces his life story and work for the PEF under three different lead excavators, drawing on what survives of Yusif’s own correspondence and notes, as well as reading ‘against the grain’ of his employers’ papers, to interpret Yusif’s role not only in the quotidian administration of the excavations but in the ways in which archaeological finds were interpreted and the social environment in which the excavations took place understood as a source of knowledge about them.

Hilma Granqvist and Palestinian Studies: A Transcultural Approach

Rosanna Sirignano, University of Heidelberg – Cluster of Excellence Asia and Europe

During the 1930s the Swedish speaking Finnish anthropologist Hilma Granqvist (1890-1972) carried out field research in the West Bank village of Artas, producing five monographs, which have a unique place in social anthropology of Muslim societies because of the richness of the content and the detailed description of Muslim women’s lives under the British Mandate. This paper aim at highlighting Granqvist´s “transcultural” collaboration during her field work. In particular I will focus on her field notes in Arabic, which are the result of the involvement of different agents. In fact, the richness and accuracy of Granqvist’s studies are the result of the efforts and determination of a special “scientific committee” composed of Louise Baldensperger, an Alsatian woman who had been living in the village for 30 years, and two village women, ‘Alya Ibrahi?m and H?amdiye Sanad. Louise Baldensperger wrote down ‘Alya and H?amdiye’s narratives phonetically under dictation. Granqvist probably added an interlinear German and sometimes English translation to Baldensperger’s notes. Then she sent the field notes in Arabic to local teachers Elias Nasrallah Haddad and Judy Farah Docmac, who checked and copied them in Arabic letters. Through some examples, I will show the different ways Granqvist´s collaborators transcribed women´s narratives and then I will briefly discuss the potential role of the texts for the preservation of Palestinian memory.

Palestinian and Israeli Agency in Framing Palestinian Oral Literature

Farah Aboubakr, University of Edinburgh

Following the trauma of the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948 and the establishment of Israel, there has been a growing interest in Palestinian popular culture, particularly oral literature. Palestinian and Israeli folklorists and anthropologists have embarked on numerous projects aimed at collecting, documenting, contextualising and translating pre-1948 folktales. Although popular culture and its artistic forms of expression have usually been deemed as epiphenomenal in Middle Eastern Studies in general and in Palestine Studies in particular, this paper will look into the agency of the folklorist in framing Palestinian collective, historical and post-memory in two folktale compilations, namely Speak Bird, Speak, Again (1989) by Ibrahim Muhawi & Sharif Kanaana (1989 & 2001) and Arab Folktales from Palestine and Israel by Raphael Patai (1991). Being folklorists, anthropologists and translators, the paper will analyse Muhawi, Kanaana and Patai’s framing devices, mainly their use of paratexts, which I argue not only introduce and contextualise the folktales, but most importantly shape the reception of Palestinian folktales in the West. Through the power of framing, Muhawi and Kanaana have, on the one hand, created a subversive narrative for negotiating power and cultural resistance, social interaction, and national identity; while Patai, on the other hand, has confined the folktale to a dead past. In spite of their different agendas, the paper will focus on the folklorists’ powerful agency in constructing a number of social, cultural and political realities.