Author:Omri Grinberg (University of Haifa Hebrew University)
Paper short abstract:
This ethnography explores hospitality-based interactions shaping of Palestinian witnesses' narration of subjective experiences of Israel's occupation's violence. Based on fieldwork in Israeli human rights NGOs, I examine the synecdochic significance of the hospitality-testimony interface
Paper long abstract:
This paper ethnographically explores how hospitality-based interaction shape Palestinian witnesses' narration of subjective experiences of violence, and their influence on documentation by Israeli human rights agents. Based on 18 months of fieldwork in NGOs focused on Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, I examine the interface of hospitality and testimony as a three-folded synecdoche, standing in for: (i) colonial elements of the human rights industry, (ii) shifts in subject positions triggered by a documenting of a witness' enunciation; and, (iii) the national entanglement in Israel/Palestine.
In 2013, I joined Fahed, an NGO fieldworker, to collect a testimony from a Palestinian family recently attacked by Israeli settlers. On our way to the family's home, we learned that they already testified to another NGO that will handle the case. Fahed says that "the family expects their story to be heard", so we still must collect the testimony. As we are seated in their living-room, we are offered chocolate bars, sodas and hot beverages. Fahed was right: the family has every intention of testifying again.
Whereas anthropologists have recently noted the role of reciprocity in humanitarian practices, the specific correlations of human rights/humanitarian intervention, testimony collections, and hospitality have yet to be thoroughly extrapolated. In the vignette above, Fahed—metaphorically and practically—serves as the family's host in the realm of human rights: the documenter is guest, and the witness is host. By noting the inextricability of testimony-hospitality in such events, I trace the shifting categories of witness-victim and documenter, guest and host.
Anthropologies of witnessing: imaginaries, technologies, practices