Temporalities of 'Return': Race, Representation and Decolonial Imaginings of Palestinian Refugee Life
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This dissertation examines the representational life of return and asks: how has Israeli settler-colonialism and international rights discourse come to bear on political imaginings of return for third-generation Palestinian refugees residing in the occupied West Bank? Examining this question as a genealogical inquiry, I consider what legal and aesthetic imaginings of return tell us about the historical and on-going project of race in Palestine/Israel as it coalesces under settler-colonialism, law and protracted humanitarianism. I begin by tracing the work of race across modern political Zionist thought, appeals to Israeli nationhood and the expulsion policies used to evict Palestinians during early Israeli settlement. Next, I develop a legal history of the right of return as a land-based reparative justice imperative and consider how it became instituted through a system of protracted humanitarian governance. In so doing, I delineate the racial grammar and juridical grounds through which Palestinian personhood came to be constituted and made legible under international governance and against settler-colonial orderings of expulsion. Against this context, chapters four and five attend to some of the ways that third-generation Palestinian refugees negotiate claims to return through decolonizing cultural production. Methodologically, I draw from six-months of research in the Southern West Bank region where I worked closely with two experimental social action projects: DAAR (Decolonizing Architectural Art Residency) and Campus in Camps. I examine their architectural and story-based imaginings of return as a history of the present but also consider what these imaginings suggest about return in its afterlife. I analyze this using a range of materials including open-ended interviews with Palestinian refugees and participants in the collectives, visual, media and narrative texts, and public speeches and published works by the collectives involved. Theoretically, I draw from theories of race, settler-colonialism, affect and psychoanalysis to analyze these texts and rely on theories of representation, genealogy and discourse analysis to interpret the material. Through this work, I treat representations of return as both a racial index of Palestinian refugee subjectivity formed across settler-colonial expulsion, legal redress and humanitarian governance and a methodological directive for thinking about ontological claims to Palestinian futurity.