“Palestine is alive and well in the Palestinian psyche, but where is Palestine today?” Since 1948, Palestinians have been exiled, displaced and uprooted from their homeland. Additionally, those who expelled them deny the history of the Palestinian presence on the land and have their own historical narrative. For Palestinian writers, intellectuals and artists resisting the settler colonial project, attaining justice for what was done to them is a central concern. But what is Palestine and how to keep it alive? Memories of the land are part of defining what Palestine is, but Palestine can not only be a record of the past, it has a present and a future. It is to the imagination that Palestinian thinkers turned, as Mourid Barghouti writes, “But, I tell myself, no reality cancels out imagination.” Imagination here does not mean a fictional dream but rather a radical attempt at rediscovery and resistance.
Palestine is not a single place or memory, but a place with multiple beginnings, places and peoples. Exploring this question in her book Imagining Palestine: Culture of Exile and National Identity, Tahrir Hamdi talks to MEMO about how Palestinians came to make sense of themselves. Imagining Palestine is a nominee for Middle East Monitor’s Palestine Book Awards 2023. Hamdi is a professor of anti-colonial and resistance literature and is currently a Rector at Arab Open University/Jordan. She is co-editing a book with Louis Brehony on Ghassan Kanafani’s revolutionary political and theoretical essays, which will be published in 2024.
She won the prestigious Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation Prize in 2020 for the best researcher in the Arab world in the humanities.
Her research revolves around resistance literature, anti-colonial theory and the importance of place and space in literature, and she has published articles on Edward Said, William Butler Yeats, Mahmoud Darwish, Mourid Barghouti, Saadi Yousef, Ghassan Kanafani, Naji Al Ali, Palestine, Ireland and Iraq.