Visiting a museum in Shatila, Lebanon: selectively remembering and forgetting Palestine and the Thawra (revolution)
(Universidade Federal Fluminense)
Paper short abstract:
A visit to a museum in Shatila prompts the ethnographer to think about how rural Palestine and the days of the revolution in Lebanon (1967-1982), the fallāḥ and the fidāʾī, are selectively remembered and forgotten.
Paper long abstract:
Shatila, the Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut where I conducted my fieldwork, is home to a tiny museum, the Memories Museum. This paper recalls my visit to it, which prompted me to think about the ways in which and the reasons as to why rural Palestine and the ayyām al-thawra (the days of the Revolution, the heyday of the Palestinian Military Resistance in Lebanon and other diasporas, 1967-1982) are selectively remembered and forgotten. The Memories Museum celebrates the fallāḥīn's (peasants') saga. For an older generation of Palestinian refugees, who lost close to everything, investment in certain identity markers - the most prominent of which being precisely the fallāḥ, with his strong claims to connection to the land - made complete sense. As a matter of fact, in Palestinian imagery, the land-bound fallāḥ - duly stripped from diacritical markers, in terms of class, origin, kinship and accent - became a unifying figure for Palestinian nationalism. For the generation who came of age during the thawra, the freedom fighter (fidāʾī) worked as the symbolic inheritor to the fallāḥ. Interestingly, at the Memories Museum, however, objects associated with the fidāʾiyyīn saga were partially hidden and not properly identified. In any case, for today's generation, the relation to both figures - the fallāḥ and the fidāʾī - is far from straightforward. It is indeed revealing that present day shabāb (lads) from Shatila seemed to have no idea where the Museum was, with none but a handful having effectively visited it.
Piecing life together in impermanent landscapes