Beyond partition : a topology of al-shatat in Post-Palestinian cinema

White, Robert G. (2019) Beyond partition : a topology of al-shatat in Post-Palestinian cinema. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis argues against two persistent tendencies in scholarship on contemporary Palestinian cinema : the reductive framing of Palestinian subjectivity as an 'image of resistance', and the framing of Palestine-Israel as radical enmity. Departing from the notion of the 'untimely' in 'contemporaneity', the corpus of films in this thesis displaces 'images of resistance' from a unifying (and homogenising) cinematic aesthetic and politics to the topological field of the 'resistance of the image' and 'resistance to partition'. The congruence of these resistances lies in a double critical deconstruction of the Israeli state and Palestinian Authority, both for their respective empty signifiers of oppression and resistance, and their bureaucratic management of the status quo. The proposed shift from images of resistance to resistance of images disrupts a binary opposition of Palestinian cinema to its Israeli counterpart. The theoretical framework developed in this thesis is interdisciplinary in its scope. The concept of a resistance of the image draws both on a literary genealogy (Emile Habiby, Ghassan Kanafani, Edward Said and Jean Genet) and on a cinematic genealogy (the PLO's Palestine Film Unit and Godard and Pasolini's 'resistant images' of Palestine). The question of resistance to partition is framed through the photo-essay of Edward Said, the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, and the critical work of Ella Shohat and Gil Hochberg. The relation between law, territory and partition is framed through the work of Giorgio Agamben, Eyal Weizman and Stuart Elden. The films discussed in this thesis, their shared film aesthetics, allow for a thinking of the political otherwise, insofar as they explicitly question the contemporary political stasis in the Agambian double sense of both political stagnation but also a taking of factional stands - underscoring a logical impossibility of the very idea of partition. Drawing on theoretical insights from the topological orientations in the work of Giles Deleuze and Giorgio Agamben, the thesis is organised aroudn what I call a topology of al-shatat (dispersal), a spatial methodology to think both the non-identical and continuous relation of discrete territorial topologies of Palestinian cinema and the liminal zone of indistinction between Palestinian and Israeli cinema. The topology of al-shatat situates the cinematic spaces and subjectivities of Palestine-Israel in a four-fold topological field: the interior (al-dakhil), the West Bank, estrangement (al-ghurba) and the camp (al-mukhayyam). Each element of this topology is explored through a selected corpus of post Second Intifada filmmaking, including the work of Kamal Alijafari, Annemarie Jacir, Elia Suleiman, Amos Gitai and Udi Aloni. The encounter between Arab al-dakhil, the exilic/diasporic Palestinian and the West Bank Palestinian in conjunction with force of law reconfigures the cinematic 'territories' of contemporary Palestinian cinema, not merely as topographic locations, but also as fluid topological processes. The thesis concludes with a reflection on the emergence of a 'post-Palestinian' consciousness in contemporary Palestinian cinema between the Occupied Territories, the camp, exile and the interior - one which embraces extimacy - that is, a topological continuum between interior and exterior - as a critical position from which to resist the idea of stasis.

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