Revisiting sumoud: thoughts on endurance and the ordinary in occupied Palestine
Lotte Buch Segal
(University of Copenhagen)
Paper short abstract:
In light of current work on endurance and crisis in anthropology this paper revisits the notion of ṣumūd (steadfastness, perseverance) that has been running through scholarship on Palestinians since the 1980es. The paper questions whether ṣumūd contain the potentiality of an otherwise.
Paper long abstract:
The Arabic word '‛ādi' means nothing unusual or spectacular, plain ordinary. Among Palestinians, '‛ādi' is a frequent response in everyday conversations to questions like, ' kīfik,' (how are you?), 'šu aḵbārik' (f) (what's your news?)' and 'kīf aḥsāsik (how do you feel?). ‛ādi was also the word I encountered during my fieldwork by way of response to my question concerning if and how life had changed after a husband had gone into prison and when he was released. Based on fieldwork among wives of long-term detainees it appeared however that the way in which lives were stitched together was not the same as before their husbands' detention nor did life ever return to normal upon release. How then could the women answer '‛ādi' to a life that has become uncanny in its seams? Understanding how life in the wake of violence, confinement and absence belong to an ordinary rather than an extraordinary register the paper revisits the notion of ṣumūd (steadfastness, perseverance) that has been running through scholarship on Palestinians in the occupied territory and in refugee camps across the Levant since the 1980es. Sumūd is an expression meant to capture an ethos of standing tall, of persevering no matter what is inflicted upon you and your people. Offering an ethnographic take on what it means to stand tall during a crisis with no end and a nationalist rhetoric that has become emptied of meaning the paper questions whether all forms of endurance contain the potentiality of a socalled otherwise.
On the margins of history: keeping a step aside of crisis