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Palestinian Postmemory: Melancholia and the Absent Subject in Larissa Sansour's In Vitro, Saleem Haddad's "Song of the Birds," and Adania Shibli's Touch

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/04/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Literature and Trauma Studies
Issue number1
Number of pages23
Pages (from-to)1-23
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article argues that Sansour's In Vitro, Saleem Haddad's short story "Song of the Birds," and Adania Shibli's novella Touch present a uniquely Palestinian postmemory, or what I call a postmemorial absence, which critiques the viability of a future when individuals feel trapped by memories of a traumatic past that prevent a meaningful present from materializing. I argue that these works further invite the question of a Palestinian identity that moves beyond the Nakba and what form such an identity might take. The first section discusses how Haddad's and Sansour's works exemplify the burden of collective memory, using the medium of science fiction to explore spatial imaginaries and the precarity of the Palestinian present. The second section illustrates how Shibli's Touch constitutes a powerful imagining of an identity unanchored to a collective traumatic past, whereby severing the inter- and transgenerational traumatic link is attempted. Her work, through its experimental form and style, suggests that negation of subjectivity—a breaking down to build anew—may be necessary to realize an identity unencumbered by past trauma.