Accepted Paper:

Our families, our conflict: co-authored auto-ethnography in Israel/Palestine  

Author:

Dan Rabinowitz (Tel Aviv University and CEU)

Paper short abstract:

This paper, which looks at the dilemmas of Israeli/Palestinian co-authorship, grapples with the politics of relevance, alterity in authorship, representations, authority and trust. It calls on writers involved with conflictual contexts to experiment with unorthodox writing styles and genres.

Paper long abstract:

In 1999 I was commissioned by an Israeli publisher to do a socio-historical analysis of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. I invited Khawla Abu-Baker, a lecturer in another Israeli university, to be my co-author. Our joint work on the book took place between 2000 and 2002, the first years of the second Palestinian uprising against Israel known as Intifadat al-Aksa. During that time we discovered a number of biographical similarities between us: we were born within six weeks into two families from Haifa; our grandparents emigrated to the town in the early 1920s - mine from the Ukraine, Khawla's from the West Bank; we grew up 20 miles apart, almost went to the same secondary school, went through the war of 1967 as 12 year olds, experienced the war of 1973 as 19 year olds. The occupation of the West-Bank re-united Khawla's immediate family with relatives they had not seen since 1948, while the Israeli control of Sinai sent me on a well disguised eco-colonial mission there. We raise our children in the same territory, and are equally concerned about its future.

The theoretical focus of our book, which is written in essay form, presents a generational analysis of the Palestinian citizens in Israel. But are our biographies, the fates of both our families and the events, processes, vigniettes and memoirs reflected in them not relevant to our analytical project? We decided they were, and proceeded to develop a writing genre none of us had used before. It had the two of us - an Israeli male anthropologist, a Palestinian female social worker - sharing a unified narrative which tells the stories of our respective families in an equalized, somewhat detached third person singular.

Using this published text as an anchor, this paper grapples with the politics of relevance, alterity in authorship, 'facts' and their representations, authority, believability and trust. It calls for more willingness on the part of anthropologists to experiment with unorthodox writing genres, not least in contexts as complicated and conflictual as the one which still unfortunately prevails in Israel/Palestine.

Panel IW02
Writing anthropology: genres and cultural translation