In the August 2008 issue of Cultural Anthropology, Lori Allen explores the spatial and social practices through which Palestinians adapted to violence during the second intifada. Her approach neither assumes that violence has been all-determining of Palestinian experience, nor champions every act of Palestinian survival as heroic resistance. Instead, she shows how,Palestinians demonstrated complex forms of agency better characterized as “getting by” than as resistance. Amidst multiple forms of violence mobilized to encourage, if not force, people to leave, the deflection of these pressures through adaptation and just getting by became crucial, Allen argues.
The essay cautions against over reliance on rubrics of resistance to understand how people respond to violence and conflict zones. Describing how daily life can require careful navigation of danger and safety zones, Allen demonstrates the multiple forms agency can take, and the way spatial constraints provoke continual improvisation. “Given the recent apparent shift in Israel’s political approach to Palestine,” Allen explains, “which some describe as a change from conflict resolution to conflict management in the midst of creeping apartheid, the adaptation by Palestinians to arbitrarily disordered space and spectacular destruction may represent some middle ground between quiescence and refusal, a ground that might sprout creative political potential”.
Lori Allen is a university lecturer in contemporary Middle Eastern Politics and Society at the University of Cambridge.
Cultural Anthropology has published a range of essays on Palestinians, the Palestinian territories, and continuing conflict in the region. See, for example, Rhoda Kanaaneh’s “We’ll Talk Later” (1995) and Ted Swedenberg’s “Occupational Hazards: Palestine Ethnography” (1989). For another account of “the everyday” within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, see Eyal Ben-Ari’s “Masks and Soldiering: The Israeli Army and the Palestinian Uprising” (1989), which queries how Israeli “army reservists interrelate, reconcile their experiences of serving in the territories during the intifada (the Palestinian uprising) with living their “normal,” everyday Israelis lives” (p373).
Cultural Anthropology has also published many essays that critically explicate dynamics and representations of violence. See for example, Bruce Grant’s “The Good Russian Prisoner: Naturalizing Violence in the Caucasus Mountains” (2005), Gregory Starrett’s “Violence and the Rhetoric of Images” (2003) and Erik Mueggler’s “A Carceral Regime: Violence and Social Memory in Southwest China” (1998).