PARC Roundtable at MESA: “Doing Palestinian Ethnography While Palestinian” Co-Sponsored with Insaniyyat, Society of Palestinian Anthropologists

PARC Roundtable at MESA: “Doing Palestinian Ethnography While Palestinian” Co-Sponsored with Insaniyyat, Society of Palestinian Anthropologists

Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel 1550 Court Place, Denver, Colorado 80202
2 Dec 2022

Thursday, December 1, 2022, 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM

This roundtable builds on a 2019 roundtable entitled “Doing Palestine While Palestinian: Overcoming the Fragmentation of Our Intellectual Diaspora.” This year’s continuation asks participants to reflect upon the specific challenges of being a Palestinian ethnographer of Palestine. In the decades since Lila Abu-Lughod and Kirin Narayan problematized the category of “native” and “halfie” anthropologists, much has been written about positionality in the field and responsibilities to interlocutors. The anthropological literature on Palestinians has flourished. Recent research by Jessica Winegar and Lara Deeb has addressed how American anthropology of the Middle East has been shaped by state politics and the related politics of the academy. It is crucial to reflect upon Palestinians’ experiences of doing anthropological research and teaching anthropology through the analytics of state violence, settler colonialism, and racism, both in the field and in the academy. As Palestinians conduct ethnographic fieldwork, we not only confront the possibility of state violence and anticipate critical responses from dominant audiences in North Atlantic universities or in academia, we also may navigate complex politics within Palestinian societies. Palestinian anthropologists come from a diverse set of political positionalities, due to the politics of Israeli fragmentation and to Palestinian migration. This can present logistical challenges of maintaining access as well as epistemological and political ones of working across boundaries. Palestinians must also manage racism—both subtle and overt—against them in many locations.

In this roundtable, we consider: What are the distinct challenges of doing ethnography while Palestinian due to embodied dangers of state and non-state violence and surveillance that many Palestinians face? How do Palestinian ethnographers manage kin relations and other complex forms of sociality in the field? In what ways does conducting ethnographic research help to change our sense of what it means to be Palestinian? What special commitments do we identify as we work in Palestinian communities, and how do we attempt to fulfill these commitments? For Palestinian scholars working in Israeli or Palestinian universities, the challenges multiply as we might be forced to manage (and help Palestinian students manage) dominant Israeli ideologies and ongoing threats of state violence. How do these conditions shape Palestinian scholars’ teaching, careers, and forms of inquiry? How can scholars address and contest the dominance of North Atlantic forms of anthropology to prioritize other voices and approaches? How can we work to make anthropology more visibly relevant to Palestinian discussions about politics and society?


  • Dr. Anne Meneley — Chair
  • Dr. Amahl Bishara* — Organizer, Presenter
  • Dr. Sa’ed Atshan — Presenter
  • Dr. Nadeem Karkabi* — Presenter
  • Rami Salameh* — Presenter
  • Nayrouz Abu Hatoum — Presenter

*PARC Fellow