Border fiction : fracture and contestation in post-Oslo Palestinian culture
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This dissertation delves into a body of Palestinian literature, film, and art from the past two decades in order theorize the relationship between borders and their representations. In Israel and Palestine, a region in which negotiating borders has become a way of life, I explore the ways in which ubiquitous boundaries have pervaded cultural production through a process that I term “bordering.” I draw on theoretical contributions from the fields of architecture, geography, anthropology, as well as literature and film studies to develop a conceptual framework for examining the ways in which authors, artists, and filmmakers engage with borders as a space to articulate possibilities of encounter, contestation, and transgression. I argue that in these works, the proliferation of borders has called into question the Palestinian cultural and political consensus that created a shared set of narratives, symbols, and places in Palestinian cultural production until the last decade of the 20th century. In its place has emerged a fragmented body of works that create what Jacques Rancière terms “dissensus,” or a disruption of a cultural, aesthetic, disciplinary, and spatial order. Read together, they constitute what I term a “border aesthetic,” in which literature, film, and art produce new types of spaces, narratives, and texts through the ruptures and fractures of the border. I trace the emergence of this aesthetic and the new genres and forms that distinguish it from earlier Palestinian literary, political, and intellectual projects through analyses of the works of Elia Suleiman, Sayed Kashua, Raba’i al-Madhoun, Emily Jacir, Yazid Anani, and Inass Yassin. In their attempts to grapple artistically with the region’s borders, these authors, directors, and artists create new codes, narratives, vernaculars, and spaces that reflect the fragmentation wrought by pervasive boundaries. These works, fluent in multiple mediums, genres, and languages, reveal both the possibilities and the limits of this aesthetic, as they seek to contest borders but nevertheless remain bound by them.