Middle Eastern Studies Speaker Series
Fishing for the Past: Mediated Memories in a Palestinian Refugee Gathering, South Lebanon
Tuesday, September 20 · 7:00pm – 9:00pm Olin 102
“Terrace of the Sea” was shot in 2008 in Jal el Bahar, an unofficial Palestinian Bedouin gathering established in 1948 on the outskirts of Tyre. Structured around a collection of family photographs taken over three generations, the film engages the historical experience of the Ibrahim family not simply or primarily through the prism of na…tionalist politics, but also through their relationship to work and to the physical environment in which they are living. With the political dimension decentered one becomes aware of overlapping attachments – in particular the tension between a love of home and the land on which it is built and the ties that continue to bind refugees to their country of origin. Rather than being a straightforward expository narrative, or an act of witness or political solidarity, the film reflects on the processes of memory, foregrounding the more provisional and subjective forms of recollection that have tended to be silenced or left unassimilated by a renascent nationalist history.
“Still Life” is the first sequence in a triptych of portraits that explores the mediations of memory among Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon. It considers how a series of photos brought to Lebanon by Said Otruk, an elderly Palestinian fisherman from Acre, mediate both his present experience and recollections of his life in Palestine before 1948. We see how the “reality” represented in these images has become conflated with them; Said repeatedly misremembers the number of his fishing boat and his age when he left, and when he describes photos of Acre’s waterfront as capturing the “golden age”, he seems to be gesturing as much at the splendid figure of his own youth as at the halcyon days of pre-48 Palestine. Rather than being an expository narrative, Still Life examines the dislocations of memory, the effects of aging and forgetfulness, and the recollection of youthful vitality.
Diana Allan is an anthropologist and filmmaker. She is the founder and co-director of the Nakba Archive, a testimonial project that has recorded interviews on film with first generation Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, and the founder of Lens on Lebanon, a grassroots media initiative established during the 2006 Lebanon/Israel war. She is a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and a research affiliate at the American University of Beirut.
This event is co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program