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Ph.D. Series 58, Department of Anthropology, 2010Uncanny AffectThe Ordinary, Relations and EnduringAbsence in Families of Detainees in theOccupied Palestinian TerritoryPh.D. ThesisLotte BuchApril 2010Department of AnthropologyFaculty of Social SciencesUniversity of Copenhagen


Uncanny AffectRelations, Enduring Absence and the Ordinary in Families of Detaineesin the Occupied Palestinian TerritoryPh.D. Thesis by Lotte BuchApril 2010Institute of AnthropologyUniversity of CopenhagenSupervisor: Associate Professor Birgitte RefslundCo-Supervisor: Senior Lecturer Henrik RønsboCo-Supervisor: Professor Veena Das


AcknowledgementsThe research project has been fully funded by a grant from the Council for Development Research(FFU) of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.I end the writing of this thesis with a feeling of gratitude toward those people whose lives, thoughtsand support of this study permeate every page of the thesis. In the West Bank individuals and organisationshave welcomed me with time, questions and constructive comments to my study. Among the donororganisations in the global field of psychosocial interventions both individuals and agencies have engagedwillingly in discussion about how to understand the effects of long term conflict upon Palestinian men andwomen. There are nonetheless people among those to whom I wish to extend a special thank.In the West Bank and in Jerusalem, I am indebted to my interlocutors and their families, for sharingtheir ways and views of the life situation of being wives of Palestinian detainees. They are the ground on whichthis thesis stands. I owe a special thank to Layla, Amina and Aisha whose hospitality and warmth toward me Iremain overwhelmed by. Also, I could not have entered this field without the generous interest and supportfrom the ‘Prisoners Support Centre’, who although not named, know who they are. They allowed me to formpart of and scrutinise aspects of their tireless and valuable work. Particularly I thank the group of youngfemale therapists whose encouraging welcome inspired me to probe deeper with my study. During my time inthe occupied territory I encountered some very special ladies to whom I extend my thank: Rose Copty whogenerously opened her home and shared her life with me. Laila Atshan, whose sensitive insights, giggles andblack humour has couloured my memory of the West Bank. Hanan Abu Ghosh, for her friendship and forintroducing me to ‘Yara’. Invaluable is also the tireless work of my two assistants Rawan Odeh and Mayy AbuMeizar, whose thoughts on my study have helped shape my inquiry. Always ready with critical comments andproductive questions to yet another researcher in the West Bank is Sharif Kanaana, whose sharing of his vastknowledge I appreciate warmly. My conversations with Dana Hercbergs about doing fieldwork in the moralminefield that makes up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have helped me understand the daily life of conflict.Not least, I wish to thank Nathalie Khankan whose tutoring me as an academic in the occupied territory and adistinct kind of sisterhood has guided me through the process.In Copenhagen I sincerely thank my supervisor Birgitte Refslund Sørensen, whose superiorknowledge of doing fieldwork in conflict areas made the field approachable and ensured this study a firmethnographic grounding. I remain indebted to my co-supervisor Henrik Rønsbo who supported meintellectually and collegially even before this PhD was thought. I consider myself privileged to continue ourcollaboration. As a co-supervisor in the later stages of my study, Veena Das encountered me with remarkableintellectual generosity, hospitality and an interest I could never have foreseen but whose influence readsthroughout the thesis.I am grateful to my inspiring colleagues at the Institute of Anthropology. I wish to mention herethose speacial individuals who made all the difference to my years as a PhD student and the thinking behindthis study: Anja Kublitz, Helene Risør, Bjarke Oxlund and Frida Hastrup. Later in the process I havebenefited from the comments of Kasper Tang Vangkilde, Susanne Bregnbæk and Morten Hulvej Rod. I have3


moreover been inspired by Mark Vacher’s reading of my work. During my study I have had the pleasure toshare an interest at the boundaries of anthropology and psychology with Nanna Johannesen. I was moreoverfortunate to have Nina Gren comment on a chapter. I am grateful for the patience and care with which SteenKelså has undertaken the layout of this thesis. I also thank Dr Robert Parkin for taking on the proof reading ofthe thesis.At my other intellectual home, The Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims(RCT), talks with Andrew Jefferson, Steffen Jensen, Søs Nissen and Jens Modvig have and continue to inspireme and disturb the limits of anthropological knowledge in an applied setting. For practicing and assisting withtransliteration of Arabic I have been fortunate to know Christina Copty. During the autumn of 2009 I spent amonth at the Anthropology Department at Johns Hopkins University. That month pushed my thinkingabout this project and I am still baffled by the department’s willingness to engage so wholeheartedly with thework of a stranger. My conversations there with particular Sylvain Perdigon made me think.I thank my mother, father and brother for their boundless support, curiosity and belief in theirdaughter and sister from the project’s inception to seeing it through. I wish also to thank Otilija Gaizauskaite,Jytte and Geoff Segal and not least some particularly special persons for their patience with an absentmindedfriend; Kristine Siegel, Susanne Kalstrup, Ida Hyllested, Nathalie Soelmark and Karoline Foss.Overall, I am indebted to Sune Segal for sharing the process, thoughts and the entire project withsuch enthusiasm; for visiting me in the West Bank and for tireless, critical reading. For allowing this project tohappen to us. Mostly, though, for being with me and seeing me through that which became woven into thecollaborative work of a PhD thesis. JED.Whilst all of these people were crucial to the making of the thesis, the responsibility for everything stated inhere is solely mine.Lotte Buch, April 29, 20104


Appendix I5


Appendix II6


Table of contentsPage 3:AcknowledgementsPage 5:Illustration; “West Bank & Gaza”Page 6:Illustration; Call for Papers, Conference on the Role and the Future of the Palestinian FamilyPage 8:Illustration; Cartoon by Naji al-AliPage 10:Chapter 1; IntroductionPage 38:Chapter 2; MethodologyPage 58:Chapter 3; Why is Muna Crying?Page 82:Chapter 4; Domestic Uncanniness: Homely Loss and Unhomely AbsencePage 110: Chapter 5; Enduring Presents: Living a Prison Sentence as the Wife of a DetaineePage 131: Chapter 6; Contracted Closeness and Actualised ObligationsPage 155: Chapter 7; Disembodied ConjugalityPage 182: Chapter 8; Motherhood as a Safe Place: The Gendering of an OrdinaryPage 200: Chapter 9: ConclusionPage 210: ReferencesPage 227: English AbstractPage 229: Danish Abstract7


Cartoon by Palestinian political cartoonist Naji al-Ali in Arab newspaperAbas, 22 February 1986. The text accompanying the cartoon read ‘Onlythrough all means of resistance can legitimate national rights be achieved.The wife hands the AK-47 to her husband who gets ready for battle. His footrests on the olive branch, representing the peace initiatives which unfortunatelyhas not yilded any results. In the background is a map of historic Palestine‘(The Political Cartoon Gallery 2008; 25).8


Part 1: Introduction & Methodology9


Chapter IIntroductionI merged a little with the voidsitting in a nocturnal room and was filled with your silencethat trembled in the picture 1The concern of this thesis is the affect emanating from the drawing on the previous page. It shows aPalestinian man and his wife. She is handing him his gun, helping him prepare to take part in the resistanceagainst the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory. 2 Her gesture could be that of a woman handing herhusband his lunch pack; the situation is ordinary and leaves the audience in no doubt that both the man andthe woman agree with what is happening.My aim is to investigate what it feels like to be in the situation of the depicted woman, what isentailed in being the wife of a heroic husband whose resistance activities may cause him either imprisonmentin Israel or death? The ethnographic basis of this investigation is nine months of fieldwork in the occupiedPalestinian territory 3 among women married to men detained in Israeli prisons. This data form the centre ofgravity for the whole thesis. Part of my fieldwork also focused on non-governmental organisations (NGOs)that offer psychosocial services to families with an imprisoned husband. The focus on psychosocial services isdue to the fact that they dominate the landscape in which the needs of detainees’ families are addressed. Inorder to comprehend the notions of suffering in relation to which these NGOs deal and make interventions, Ihave also carried out four months of fieldwork among European donors and international experts whosupport Palestinian organisations through flows of money and knowledge. The data generated amongorganisations serve as the context 4 for understanding how these women’s experiences are perceived locally andinternationally. Using this ethnographic foundation, the thesis elucidates how Palestinian conjugal relations1The Poem is by Ghada al-Shafi’i in Maps of Absence from al-Shafi’i’s collection al-Mashhad yukhabbi’ sahilan [TheScene Hides Neighing] (al-Shafi’i 1999), translated by Nathalie Khankan (Khankan 2009) and transliterated byChristina Copty.I tabaktu qal lan ma al-far al-j lis f urfa layl yya w-imtala’tu bi- amtika alla yartajju f a - ra2I use the term ‘Israeli occupation’ in accordance with UN Resolution 242 of 1967(cf. http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/240/94/IMG/NR024094.pdf?OpenElement).3I use the term occupied territory instead of ‘occupied Palestinian territory’ to refer to the West Bank, Gaza and EastJerusalem.4My choice of analytical context is arguably unusual given the importance ascribed by the majority of ethnographicstudies of the occupied territory to the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I will elaborate my rationale forgiving priority to notions of suffering, rather than to historical events and processes, when discussing the analyticalcontext further. Suffice it to say here that the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been and continues tobe investigated by scholars from a vast number of disciplines as one of the most contentious fields ofcontemporary historical research. Precisely because of this contentiousness, when applying it to his or her researchthe researcher runs the risk of being read primarily with an eye to the particular take on history he or she hastaken. In the hope that this thesis will be read as an ethnography of a particular lived situation, rather than as justone more account of the misery that is intrinsic to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I have chosen not to provide thereader with a chapter on the historical background to the conflict. I will, however, present specific historical factswhere I deem it relevant for my analysis.10


are configured when a husband is imprisoned in Israel due to acts of resistance against Israel.The ordinary nature of the woman’s gesture in the picture expresses the ethos of what I term thePalestinian meta-narrative of the populations’ suffering. 5 This narrative begs heroic resistance by Palestinianmen against the Israeli occupation. Key in this narrative is the notion of umūd 6 (steadfastness) (cf. Sayigh1993). umūd is an expression meant to capture an ethos of standing tall, no matter what is inflicted upon thePalestinians. It implies that women, like the woman pictured, keep the family together and securereproduction in the face of any effects the heroic activities of their husbands, sons and fathers may entail.Adhering to what I term a global psychological discourse, 7 the woman’s situation could place her in thecategory of ‘secondary victim’ or ‘secondary traumatised’ due to the trauma her husband may suffer if heparticipates in violence, whether as a victim or a perpetrator. Trauma, it can be said, rests on the notion oflinear suffering: it has a beginning, an emotional response and an aftermath in which life is regained (cf.Herman 1992).In contrast, Ghada al-Shafi’i’s poem ‘Maps of Absence’, quoted on the last page, expresses a sense ofself that merges with a void left by a disappeared other. Al-Shafi’i’ is known as a progressive female writerwhose poetry concerns the question of female voices on the Palestinian art scene (Khankan 2009). I pose myinquiry between these three affective expressions: umūd, trauma, and the embeddedness of absence, ofsomeone who has left but is not lost. Resonating across the two artistic expressions is a sense of an enduring,infinite void. The juxtaposition of the drawing and the poem invites a question that, through my encounterwith the occupied territory, has become mine: how is enduring absence caused by incarceration worked intothe relationship between husband and wife?Inherent in the absence of a detained husband, as opposed to a loss caused by death, is that theabsence is not linear. For this reason, my question translates into a concern with the interplay of non-lineartime and social relations moulded by absence. I study this phenomenon through the prism of Palestinianwives of detainees incarcerated in Israel. In line with al-Shafi’i’s faceless ‘I’, it is my argument that over time thevoid left by their imprisoned husbands becomes an integral part of the women's lives. At the same time, asexpressed in al-Ali’s drawing, and in accordance with the Palestinian meta-narrative of resistance andresilience, the women must practice umūd; they must not show any readable signs that other feelings exist inparallel with the honour generated by their husbands' violent acts of resistance. In the local vernacular,handing the gun to the husband, urging his participation in the Palestinian struggle for statehood, is thoughtof as ādi, ‘ordinary’ or ‘normal’. Violence, absence and unconditional support for the national struggle are5By the term ‘Palestinian meta-narrative’, I refer to an overarching, national narrative of the plight of the Palestiniancollective. This narrative comprises people’s individual stories of loss, suffering, displacement, incarceration andthe recording of heroic events of resistance against Israel. The meta-narrative is not uniform and naturally impliescontrasting stories and messages. In line with anthropologists Lori Allen (2009) and Laleh Khalili (2007), I arguethat such a framework for narrating suffering exists in the occupied territory.6 In this thesis all Arabic words have been transcribed according to how they figure in Hans Wehr ‘A dictionary ofModern Writtten Arabic’ (Wehr 1980). Names of people have however been transliterated in an anglicised way.7When I employ the notion of discourse, it is with reference to Michel Foucault’s definition of the term as a systemof thought and practices that delineates the boundaries of what can be thought and enunciated (cf. Foucualt 1970).11


perceived of as ādi.One of my aims is to offer an account of what ādi, the ordinary, means under such circumstances.Terming these circumstances ‘ordinary’ when in fact absence moulds the entire existence of the detainees’wives can be conceived of as a denial of the suffering that follows in the wake of that absence. A furtherconcern is to investigate the gap between living with absence and the lack of public acknowledgement thatpractising umūd does not make the void created by this absence disappear. What follows is thus anethnography of the gaps between on the one hand, personal experiences of living a life married to a detainee[asīr], and on the other hand, how the characteristics of such a life are understood and acknowledged – oralternatively denied acknowledgement – in Palestinian as well as in global psychological discourse of sufferingas trauma. Whereas the notion of trauma may appear external to Palestinian understandings of suffering, I willconvey how trauma in fact proliferates and merges with these (cf. Fassin and Rechtman 2009, Allen 2009). Ithereby examine the interstices between the experience of being married to a detainee and how this isperceived in both the Palestinian meta-narrative and global psychological discourse. 8To inquire into these interstices requires a conceptual framework that constitutes an ontologicalparadox. In studying personal experience through concrete human figures, I employ theories of subjectivity,suffering and the ordinary, which implies close analysis of everyday conversations and interaction. Inspiringthis part of my investigation is the work of the anthropologist Veena Das and the philosopher Stanley Cavell,both of whom draw on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s work on the relationship between self and community and therole of language in it (cf. Das 1998). Wittgenstein's and Cavell’s work both ponder the question of how weknow the other as well as ourselves (cf. Cavell 1979). Das has translated this into an anthropological concernfor how the inner and the outer are stitched together, assuming, however, that there is no a priori ‘inner’ orwhat Wittgenstein terms a ‘private language’ (Das 2007: 62). Studying the configuration of the personal andthe public provides a bridge across the ontological gap that exists between the outlined premises of personalexperience and the simultaneous wish to study the configuration of affect, notions and discourses around thedetainees and their families. To understand the latter, I draw on the work of the philosophers Gilles Deleuze(Deleuze 1990, 1994, ) and Henri Bergson (Deleuze 1988; Bergson 1910, 1912), as well as theanthropologist Marilyn Strathern (2004). Common to these theories, and in contrast to Cavell, is the notionthat the subject in his or her understanding is a configuration rather than a human figure. Although this thesisdoes not seek to solve the fundamental paradox between the ontological premises of the two approaches, Itake the tensions between them to be productive. As noted by the anthropologists Joao Biehl and AmyMoran-Thomas in their article ‘Symptom: Subjectivities, Social Ills and Technologies’, ‘The study of individualsubjectivity as both a strategy of existence and a material and means of sociality and governance helps to recasttotalizing assumptions of the workings of collectivities and institutions’ (Biehl and Moran –Thomas 2009:270). Recasting the intersection of experience and its configuration in the occupied territory is the aim of this8By global, psychological discourse, I refer to a multiple and differentiated understanding of affliction permeated bythe notion of trauma, that is, to trauma as comprising an event and the emotional response of traumatisation thatthis event allegedly entails (cf. Herman 1992). Terming such discourse ‘global’ refers to how this understandingproliferates and is created across national borders. This proliferation has been described by historian Ruth Leys(2000) and has been termed ‘The Empire of Trauma’ by sociologists Richard Rechtman and Didier Fassin (2009).12


study.I.I The Line of InquiryWith the wives of Palestinian detainees as the ethnographic focus, this thesis aims to determine how the affectin and around the wives is configured in the context of their husbands' incarceration. Ethnographically thiscan be formulated as what it means to live the life of the wife of a detainee incarcerated for anything betweenseventeen years and life in Israel. The thesis asks what are the pivotal aspects determining how such a life islived, how it is understood by the surrounding society and how it is either granted or deniedacknowledgement.Based on my fieldwork, I argue that there exists a self-perpetuating mode of understanding sufferingin the occupied territory thanks to what are sometimes perceived to be contrasting outlooks on affliction (cf.Fassin and Rechtman 2009): on the one hand, a global psychological discourse that frames suffering as‘trauma’; on the other hand, a Palestinian national discourse emphasising heroic resistance and the enactmentof umūd in the face of Israeli violence. I aim to show that, rather than opposing each other, the twodiscourses resonate and form what I term a standing language of knowing and acknowledging suffering in theoccupied territory. My argument here is that there is a dissonance between the temporality of suffering inherentin this standing language on the one hand and the temporality inherent in the lived lives of detainees’ wiveson the other. According to the standing language, suffering is caused by the onset of a violent event, which,after its termination, is followed by a return to the normal state of affairs that holds out the promise ofrecovery. I argue that this alleged linear progression of affliction does not map on to living a life saturated bythe absence of an incarcerated husband. This dissonance is easily overlooked as the experiences of detainees’wives are absorbed into the standing language as a result of their relationship with their imprisoned husbandson a par with the widows of the so-called šuhada’ [martyrs] and the mothers of either asra’ [detainees] or aššuhada’.According to global psychological discourse, a relationship with a victimised husband or son grantsaccess to the category ‘secondary victim’. Whereas this category can include anyone who is ‘close’ to the victim,my inquiry addresses only detainees' wives and with the aim of comparison widows and mothers of martyrs ordetainees. Nonetheless it should not be forgotten that, in the Palestinian meta-narrative, all of these womenare endowed with honour as an effect of their male relatives' acts of resistance, which are perceived as heroic.The slippage between how the lives of detainees' wives are understood in these discursive registersof suffering and how they are lived serves as my point of departure for an investigation into how affect isconfigured in the absence of an incarcerated husband. The investigation has at its centre the spheres that makeup the women’s ordinary life: the domestic sphere, lived temporality, kin relations, the conjugal relationshipand selfhood as motherhood.My examination of these aspects of the ordinary is informed by the figure of tragedy. This figure canbe said to originate with Sophocles’ play King Oedipus (cf. Willner 1982, Lévi-Strauss 1955, Leach 1970). Inher analysis of women’s roles in Sophocles’ tragedies and how they are either analysed or left out ofanthropological writing (cf. Lévi-Strauss 1955, Leach 1979), anthropologist Dorothy Willner suggests thatthe appeal of the Greek tragedies derives from how they deal with family relations (Willner 1982: 59). One ofthe most famous reflections of this claim is Sigmund Freud's use of the tragedy Oedipus to formulate his13


theory of an Oedipus complex about men’s universal desire for their mothers and omnipresent aggressiontowards their fathers (Freud 1938). In anthropology, the myth of Oedipus formed the basis of Claude Lévi-Strauss’ famous analysis of the universal structure of myths (Lévi-Strauss 1955). Willner’s objective, however,is to depart from these poignant analyses and discuss the less frequently treated subject of the role of women aseither victims or heroes in the Greek myths (Willner 1982). One figure that has informed anthropologicalanalysis is the daughter of Oedipus, Antigone, who, in an act intended to secure the heroic burial of herbrother, defeats her uncle Creon and as a consequence is walled up in a tomb, where she commits suicide(Willner 1982). As Judith Butler argues, Antigone epitomises the fundamental conflict between the law ofthe state and the law of the family (Butler 2000: 6). By insisting on burying her brother, Antigone chooseskinship over the state at the cost of her own life.Antigone’s choice also informs Das’ examination of how the violence of the partition between Indiaand Pakistan in 1947 is folded into kin relations through women’s silence about the violence of the state intheir attempts to stitch together split families (Das 2007). Similarly, Willner is concerned with the heroismdisplayed by Antigone and its cost, and she suggests that ‘the woman who is a hero is not allowed also to bewife and mother. Lamenting her lost marriage chamber, Antigone goes to the tomb’ (Willner 1982: 62).I wish to pause here to contemplate Antigone's problem: the contradiction between beingacknowledged as a hero and at the same time being a wife and mother – a paradox that, in the tragedy, canonly be solved through death. True, this contradiction is not immediately analogous to the problem of beingacknowledged as a proud hero’s wife while at the same time living a life that is saturated by the absence of thathero. However, I suggest that there is resonance between, on the one hand, the impossible reconciliation ofthe requirements of the state and of kinship in Antigone’s case, and on the other, the interstice between howthe wife of a Palestinian detainee is supposed to feel according to the Palestinian national discourse and howshe lives her life at the intersection of derivative honour and absence (cf. Buch 2010).The difference between the Greek tragedies and my ethnography is that, to my interlocutors, deathdoes not terminate the irreconcilability. This would be the case if the women were the widows of aš-šahīd.Serving as a comparative backdrop, the widows of aš-šuhada’ therefore inform my inquiry into the lives of thedetainees’ wives. However, the linearity of the tragedy and the way in which death offers a solution of tension,albeit a tragic one, offers only a limited framework for comprehending the situation of the Palestiniandetainees’ wives. Against this background, I introduce Cavell’s assertion that Shakespeare’s tragedies aredistinct in that they are imbued with what he terms a ‘skeptical structure’ (Cavell 1987: 19). According toCavell, the skepticism in Shakespearean tragedies refers to withdrawal of the world as one knows it (ibid.).Cavell analyses the tragic story of Othello and Desdemona as being about a man whose tragedy is not a lack ofknowledge about the other, but a lack of trust in the certainty of this knowledge. How can he be sure aboutwhat he knows – how can he be sure about Desdemona’s virginity upon their marriage? (Cavell 1979: 490).Of importance in Othello’s attempt to prove that his doubts in his wife have a cause in her unfaithfulness ishis demand of ocular proof of her intactness, a proof Desdemona fails to deliver due to a conspiracy betweenOthello’s aide Iago and his wife Emilia (Cavell 1979: 495). The only thing that can prove Othello’s doubt falseis Desdemona’s death. Othello kills her, and she is metaphorically turned into a stone, intact as only theinhuman can be (Cavell 1979: 481). By turning his wife to stone, Othello attempts to keep his knowledge of14


her outside the register of skepticism.In what sense may Shakeaspearean tragedy be of relevance in the context of the West Bank? Ipropose that the image of a woman turning to stone may further our understanding of the lack ofacknowledgement of what it means emotionally to be a detainee’s wife, derivative honour aside. I suggest toconceptualise the emphasis on umūd in the Palestinian meta-narrative as a national requirement to turncertain types of emotion to stone – an allegory that was often used by my informants, although in a differentsense, namely that their strength was ‘zay al-jabal’ – like the mountain. No matter what occurred, they wouldendure. Anthropologist Amalia Sa’ar argues that local expressions of women as qawiyyi (strong) are used as amode of praise that positions the women’s strength as affirming rather than contesting national values of, inthe Palestinian case, national revolution (Sa’ar 2006). Against this background, I suggest there is an analogybetween an appeal to endurance and a denial of acknowledgement. What is denied is precisely what can beendured because it is not tragic – for instance, the mundane, indirect violence of discriminatory bureaucracy(cf. Kelly 2006), omnipresent, though not abject poverty (Roy 2001), or, as in this study, male absence causedby detention that continues and does not end with the violent, spectacular death offered by martyrdom(Khalili 2007). The thesis argues that an understanding of suffering as depicted in Greek tragedy fails tonotice this other form of suffering, one imbued with a different temporal structure. In contrast, we are aidedby Cavell’s understanding of Shakespearian tragedy as characterised by a skeptical structure constituted bydoubts about the rightfulness of the other’s claim to humanity or suffering. It is the Shakespearean nexus ofacknowledgement and doubt over claims to suffering that can inform my question of how granting and denialof acknowledgement of affliction unfolds in the occupied territory.On the basis of this premise, I offer an analysis of how affect around kin and conjugal relations isreconfigured in the face of a non-linear, temporal duration of absence. The thesis’s theoretical spine istherefore made up of three main areas that intersect throughout in changing constellations of figure andground (Strathern 2004: 81): how non-linear time in the form of absence moulds social relations; how thisabsence shapes affect; and how the acknowledgement of suffering is granted or denied. In addition, the thesisspeaks to standing discussions in anthropology about the relationship between violence and everyday life, arelationship that translates into a concern for the configuration of the ordinary. I investigate what the ordinarymeans to my interlocutors aided by Freud’s notion of the uncanny (Freud 1919). The uncanny is defined as‘that species of the frightening that goes back to what was once well known and had long been familiar. Howcan this be – under what conditions [can] the familiar (can) become uncanny and frightening’ (Freud 1919[2003]: 124). Pondering the ordinary in the light of absence caused by incarceration a basic question thisthesis seeks to answer is under what circumstances can the ordinary become uncanny in the occupiedterritory?I.II. Relations in AnthropologyThe centre of gravity in this study is detainees’ wives as part of a conjugal relation. I thus locate my inquiry inthe smallest possible unit of analysis in anthropology: the relationship between two people (Hylland-Eriksen2003: 133). Choosing this most fundamental relationship as my point of departure is a way to investigate howviolence is configured as part of the ordinary, rather than as an unusual occurrence following which things15


eturn to normal. The thesis therefore comprises an ethnography of how violence is woven into the quilt ofsocial relations, of intimacy, of expectations and public notions of what it means to have truly experiencedviolence and how it is acknowledged.A basic premise in anthropology is that a relationship between two people is never only or actuallyabout two individuals. How the notion of relationship is understood in anthropology is therefore also whatdistinguishes the discipline from, for instance, psychology, whose basic unit of inquiry is the individualhuman being. In anthropology, a relationship between two people is folded into and appears as part of a livedset of relations and a system of kinship that is imbued by power and hierarchy (Abu-Lughod 1986 (2000)).In order to position how I analyse conjugal and kin relations, in this section I present some of the poignantconceptualisations of relations in anthropology. This epistemological grounding of the thesis is followed by adelineation of how social relations and kinship are expressed regionally, with an emphasis on how myparticular ethnography concerns relations that are permeated by indirect violence.A paramount attempt to understand how human society is possible and sustainable was undertakenby one of anthropology's founding fathers, Marcel Mauss. Mauss was concerned with the bond that tieshuman beings together, how this bond is created, and how it can be broken and reconciled. Mauss’ssignificance in the anthropological theory of relations lies foremost in his conceptualisation of gift exchange aspivotal to the social bond between people (Mauss 1954 (2008)). Mauss considered the gift a double sacrificeof giving and receiving: when we give, it is in the hope that our gift will be accepted, and also understood. Thegift exchange, however, is less about the individuals involved in the transaction than about ‘indicat[ing] a stateof perpetual effervescence of societies’, as sociologist Christian Papilloud argues (Papilloud 2004: 433). Ofconcern to Mauss was, however, the personalisation of the gift, and its givers’ and receivers’ commitment tothe social bond created through exchange and how to make it endure. As such, the issue of morality and socialrelations formed a consistent point of gravity in Mauss’s writings. His influence far exceeds relations betweenindividuals. An example of the application of his ideas is the anthropologist Hans Lucht’s development of theterm ‘existential reciprocity’ (Lucht 2008). Based on an analysis of the reaction of a mother who has lost herson to the predictably fatal journey of immigration from Nigeria to Italy, Lucht analyses the motifs andcreation of meaning around this mother’s unwilling sacrifice of a son. Existential reciprocity coins theanticipation that ‘giving up’ is a form of giving that takes place in the hope that something will appear inreturn (Lucht 2008: 224). Furthermore, Mauss’ influence in studies of materiality cannot be overestimated (cf.Miller 1988; Henare, Holbraad and Wastell 2006), due to his assertion that every gift comprises a part of thegiver (Mauss 1954 (2008)). His writings continue to be contemporary, not least thanks to those who havedeveloped aspects of his thinking further.The most important of these is Mauss’s student Claude Lévi-Strauss. To Lévi-Strauss, the humanintention and motifs behind social bonds seemed only marginally important in comparison with his ownambition to tease out the universal structures that drive the acts and perceptions of individual human beings.Lévi-Strauss’ concern with the subject matter of his mentor, the gift, was therefore how it serves as a type ofsymbolic exchange that provides a mechanism for the creation of meaning. A pivotal insight of thestructuralist Lévi-Strauss is his method of analysing myth. Adhering to a universalistic understanding ofhuman thought, he managed to tease out the basic units that are constitutive of myths – mythemes – through16


a comparison of myths from all over the world, among them that of King Oedipus (Lévi-Strauss 1955).Whereas myths vary according to the contexts and settings in which they are shaped, Lévi-Strauss argued thatit is only within the register of content that myth displays variation: at the level of form, all myths arepervaded by binary oppositions (Lévi-Strauss 1970). Lévi-Strauss’s approach may be seen as a reaction toMauss’s phenomenological understanding of social phenomena (Bourdieu 1977 (1995): 4). However, there islittle doubt that he managed to achieve his objective: anthropological studies of kinship have drawn andcontinue to draw on his insights into the structural principles of kinship. One of his major contributions washis understanding of kinship as guided by alliances rather than by descent, as had hitherto been perceived inanthropology. According to Lévi-Strauss, the guiding principle of exogamous marriage is the exchange ofwomen, who will then be reciprocated in due time. In this manner, the exchange of women served tominimise strife between rival groups (Lévi-Strauss 1969).Positioning himself along a continuum between Mauss and Lévi-Strauss, Pierre Bourdieuattempted to reconcile the twin concerns with what he termed ‘objective structures’ and ‘subjectiveexperience’ (Bourdieu 1977 (1995): 5). Bourdieu’s critique of Lévi-Strauss’s conceptualisation of kinship andmarriage was that Lévi-Strauss overlooked how people in their actual marriages acted strategically, rather thanadhering strictly to what Bourdieu coined ‘preferred marriages’ (Bourdieu 1977 (1995)). Bourdieu thereforedistinguished between ‘official kinship’ and ‘practical kinship’ (1977 (1995: 35)). Official kinship connotesthe representations of kinship that the members of a group will convey to, for instance, the anthropologistupon enquiry. Whereas such a representation of kinship may reflect how this particular group prefers toengage in marriage, it reflects less how marriage is actually organised (1977 (1995): 37). These strategies arenot free-floating, as their connotations of free will might lead one to assert. Rather, to Bourdieu, strategiesarise as possibilities within the structure of habitus, Bourdieu’s concept of the set of dispositions that areavailable to human beings as a space for manoeuvring (1977 (1995): 76). This space is situated betweenstructure and the possibility to negotiate and manoeuvre creatively within it. Bourdieu also analysed the issueof male domination by means of habitus and its concordant notions of doxa, connoting ‘quasi-perfectcorrespondence between the objective order and the subjective principles of organisation’, and heterodoxa,which is a moment in which what is taken for granted is questioned ((1977 (1995): 164). He concluded thatmasculine domination is always already there as a disposition that is reproduced through state practices ofeducation, marriage and law (Bourdieu 2001: 116). Bourdieu’s theoretical apparatus continues to be one ofthe most influential across sociology and anthropology in western academia. And from one perspective, theappeal of Bourdieu’s work to the subject matter of this thesis is evident, bearing in mind that his ethnographicbasis is kinship and domestic life in another Muslim-Arab context, namely Algeria. However, his emphasis onsocial organisation as a result of strategic practices tends to eclipse some of the non-strategic aspects of humaninteraction I encountered during my fieldwork in the occupied territory.In this outline of influential conceptualisations of relations in European anthropology, I wish todraw attention to the work of Marilyn Strathern. Arguably, Strathern's most significant contribution toanthropology is her attempt to rethink exchange as a fundamentally gendered constellation. The spine ofStrathern’s work is her ethnographic engagement in Melanesia. In her article ‘An Awkward Relationship: TheCase of Feminism and Anthropology’ (Strathern 1987), she claims that the relationship between feminist17


theory and anthropology is awkward due to a different relationship to their object of study. In my view,Strathern more than any other anthropologist has succeeded in rethinking relations and gender in a mannerthat allows awkwardness to be productive. In the introduction to The Gender of the Gift (1988), Strathernnotes the following on the relationship between gender and exchange:Often gifts subsume persons themselves, especially under patrilineal regimes where women move inmarriage from one set of men to another, although this is not the only context in which objects, as they passfrom donor to recipient, appear to be categorised as male or female. However, one cannot read such genderascriptions off in advance, not even when women appear to be the very items which are gifted. It does notfollow that ‘women’ only carry with them a ‘female’ identity. The basis for classification does not inhere in theobjects themselves but in how they are transacted and to what ends. The action is the gendered activity.(Strathern 1988: xi)Intrinsic to Strathern’s understanding of gendered relations is how they fluctuate according towhich relationships a person engages in. As shows in the quote above, ‘gender’ is not intrinsic to a unit but isan activity that occurs in the relationship between units. To analyse the dynamic of gender implies that weattend to the changing configurations of relations, both those that are visible and a direct object of analysis,and those that are invisible but that form part of the network in which a particular relationship is configured(Strathern 1988, 2004). The way in which I think analytically about relation is chiefly based on Strathern’swork. With the term ‘relation’, I refer not only to relations between persons but also between, for instance,form and content, such as the relationship between experience and how experience is perceived and expressedpublically.Strathern’s argument that the relationship between feminist theory and anthropology is at bestawkward (Strathern 1987) captures the uneasy position of this thesis: it is about gender, even about women,yet it is not an ethnography of Palestinian Women. Rather, this thesis is intended as an ethnography of therelationship between personal experiences and the way in which these are configured and known in theoccupied territory at present. Strathern’s conceptualisations of relations allow me to think about the volatilityof this relationship.A premise for the entirety of Strathern’s work is that human beings, objects and identity come intobeing through relations (2004). In her conceptualisation of relationality, Strathern is inspired by Roy Wagner(Wagner 1977). For Wagner the world is prefigured, which means that it is always already there. Wagner’sworld view contains the present, the past and the future simultaneously, allowing each relational configurationto instantiate according to the different relations that constitute it (cf. Deleuze 1988). According to Wagner,relations are configured into different modalities of, for instance, unmediated relations of substitution andmediated relations as replication (Wagner 1977). A core term in Wagner’s thinking is the distributed person,which, in Strathern’s writings, is referred to as the ‘fractal person’ (Strathern 2004). The fractal person appearsas a singular unit, yet this singularity is at the same time a multiplicity of relations. Which one of theserelations appears as singular identity is mediated through the relations in which the person engages. Strathernconsiders the relations that are the object of her analysis through the idea that indigenous analysis isembedded within the object of analysis. My attempt to analyse experience and how experience is conceived inthe occupied territory can be thought of as such an attempt. Taking her point of departure in the embedded18


indigenous analysis of her analytical object is also how Strathern conceives of comparison: comparison to heris a relation and the scale through which comparison is made is inherent to the relational object itself (2004).Comparison is therefore never between two objects that are external to each other: because they arerelationally constituted, the scale of comparison is already embedded within the objects to be compared.Comparison in this thesis appears as both an ethnographic fact and an anthropological problemthat is pertinent with regard to the difference in both experience and acknowledgement of widows of aššuhada’and wives of al-asra’ respectively. This difference maps on to the difference between aš-šahīd and alasīr:In the occupied territory, the two poignant figures are often mentioned in the same sentence, in everydaytalk, songs or media representations, yet always with an implicit difference between the two that is voiced byreferring to the religious value of the sacrifice of aš-šahīd, which appears to occupy a higher position in thehierarchy of honourable suffering compared to the detainee, whose deeds can still be cast into doubt (Buch2010).In order to comprehend this difference, I use specific concepts from the work of the Bergson, whoconsiders the flow of time and space as made up of ‘lines of differentiation’ (cf. Deleuze 1988: 37).Differentiation occurs with regard to both time and space. Of the most fundamental character are differencesamong time and space, which Bergson terms differences in kind. Gradual, numerical differences that occuronly at the level of matter are termed ‘differences in degree’.From a superficial perspective, the difference between aš-šahīd and al-asīr appears as a difference indegree, as if a martyr is but a bigger sacrifice or greater loss for his family than a prisoner. Pondering thisdifference throughout the thesis, I propose nonetheless that the difference between the two is a difference inkind. It is with regard to temporality and spatial presence that the two categories of heroes differ. Temporallythe martyr’s suffering and life has ended: he is gone rather than absent. As such, his trajectory can be thoughtof with reference to the Greek tragedy, in which death resolves, for instance, Antigone’s irreconcilable paradoxbetween the law of the state and the law of the family. The detainee, on the other hand, is physically absentfrom his life world but alive and present through the practices his family engages in to make him present as afather, a husband and a national hero. Spatially the martyr has been transformed from a man into a martyr,whereas the detainee is in principle still both a living person and husband, albeit only through ‘absentpresence’ (Hastrup, Bille and Flohr Sørensen 2010). In Bergsonian terms, the difference between al-asīr andaš-šahīd can thus be said to be a difference in kind.In order to underline how I consider differences volatile rather than absolute, I employ RobertConnolly’s use of Deleuze’s notion of ‘resonance’. To Connolly, resonance is a way to reflect upon subtlesimilarities between two phenomena, in his case between capitalism and Evangelical Christianity in theUnited States. These subtle similarities, which at the same time comprise their differences, are termedresonance (Connolly 2005). The resonance between capitalism and Evangelical Christianity creates whatConnolly terms ‘the evangelical capitalist resonance machine’ (ibid.). Intriguing in Connolly’s analysis is howresonance is the vehicle that teases out subtle similarities between seemingly different spheres. What Connollyshares with the brief outlines of Deleuze’s, Bergson’s and Strathern’s thoughts is a resonance in how theyunderstand how relational change and difference is constituted against the background of prefigured but noncausalconfigurations of relations.19


I have outlined what, in terms of my ethnography, appear to be the most significant anthropologicalcontributions to the study of relations, positioning my own understanding of relation in line with Strathern’sthinking, although her work is based on fieldwork in Melanesia rather than in the Middle East. FollowingMorten Axel Pedersen and Martin Holbraad (2009), however, I consider Strathern’s work as much an analyticas an ethnographic description of a particular understanding of relationality. Before I proceed with an outlineof how to understand relations under the circumstances of the non-linear duration of absence, I outline belowhow relations are conceived in the regional ethnography of the Middle East. Due to my analytical premise thatviolence in the occupied territory is not to be thought of as external to ‘traditional’ notions of family, relationsand life, the following depiction of ‘the Palestinian family’ is one in which violence is considered intrinsic towhat a contemporary family means in the occupied territory.I.III Relations in the Anthropology of the Middle East in the Context of ViolenceI define the Palestinian family through the term al- ā’ila, ‘the family, and more especially ‘the extendedfamily’ (Gren 2009: 145). The focus here is on those relationships of al- ā’ila that my interlocutors see asforming part of ad-dār, the house and metaphorically the home (Gren 2009: 144). These relations include thefamily in law and the natal family, yet in varying degrees and in different domestic constellations. When Iwrite about the domestic sphere, I refer to the relationships that constitute ad-dār for my interlocutors.The Palestinian family has been subject of anthropological analysis since the Finnish anthropologistHilma Granquist published her studies of Palestinian marriage traditions in 1931 (Granquist 1931), based onthree years of ethnographic fieldwork among the villagers of Atar in the West Bank. Anthropologists such asSharif Kanaaa and Ibrahim Muhavi have followed this line of work through their documentation andcollection of Hakkiyat or folk tales told by women from villages across the Galilee, Gaza and the West Bank(Kanaana and Muhavi, 1989). The continued relevance of this book rests on how it documents genderedgenres of narrative, and Kanaana himself has made linkages across al-Hakkiyat and the present-day narrationof, for instance, jokes (Kanaana 2005). Since then, however, the anthropology of Palestine has mainly centredon studies of politics, economy, legal studies (Kelly, 2007, 2006; Hammami and Tamari 2001) and not leastmigration (Kublitz forthcoming; Isotalo 2007).The interface between politics, violence and gender has demarcated another line of inquiry (cf.Suha Sabbagh 1998). The overarching interest among this series of studies has been the transformativepotential of women’s participation in activities of resistance against the occupation (ibid.). Emblematic ofsuch research is Julie Peteet (1991) and Iris Jean-Klein’s (2003) experience-near analyses of gender dynamics inthe course of al-Intifā a 9 al-awwal (the first Intifada) 1987-1993. Both studies place the emphasis on howviolence produces and enforces certain dynamics and identities in gendered relationships. Peteet argues thatthe violent acts of resistance by men and the violence they are subjected to by the Israeli military can be seen asa ritual of initiation that, for Palestinian youth, forms part of entering adulthood (Peteet 1991). The scope ofJean-Klein’s work is the gendered distribution of roles and activities in the resistance movement of al-Intifā aal-awwal. She argues that women’s participation in resistance activities, be it throwing stones, helping men9The term ‘Intif a’ is used by Palestinians to connote popular uprising. Its literal meaning is ‘shaking off ’.20


prepare for struggle or organising committees, create transformations of so-called traditional gender structures( Jean-Klein 2003). Peteet and Jean-Klein’s studies frame the intellectual field towards which the thesis isoriented.Regarding gender and indirect forms of violence, Roda Kanaaneh’s study of family planning andIsraeli policies stand out as an inquiry into how the state of Israel shapes the intimate details of thereproductive lives of Palestinians living within the borders of Israel (Kanaaneh 2002). Being sympathetic toKanaaneh’s work, I emphasise how one of the main aspects of the occupation –the imprisonment ofPalestinian men – moulds relationships and affect circulating in the everyday from which the detainees havedisappeared. This thesis therefore complements the findings of Lisa Taraki et al., collected in the recentpublication Living Palestine. This contribution to the study of gender and permanent conflict is based onmicro-sociological research into Palestinian households under occupation, the way they cope and showresilience towards oppression in their tactics and their way of organising themselves as households (Taraki etal. 2006). An anthropological approach to precisely this has recently been carried out by Nina Gren,documented in her PhD thesis Each Day Another Disaster, about everyday life in a refugee camp south ofBethlehem (Gren 2009).Taraki’s study constitutes an interface between an academic study and one that is simultaneouslydriven by a concern for the effects of the occupation on Palestinian families and a fatigue with how ‘thePalestinian family’ is represented as absorbing all sorts of shock (Taraki et al. 2006: xii). Taraki and SuadJoseph have pointed out that, in addition to the representation of the family as unwavering in the face ofadversity ( Joseph 2002), the low number of studies of the Arab family is due to its status as intrinsicallysacrosanct. The nexus of omnipresent violence and the persistent discourse of the unwavering Palestinianfamily renders research into family relationships in the occupied territory intricate .The juxtaposition of family and violence forms part of a recent series of studies born out of theliterature on ‘Social Suffering’. This field came into being through three influential books: Social Suffering(Das, Kleinman and Lock 1997), Violence and Subjectivity, (Das, Kleinman, Ramphele and Reynolds 2000)and Remaking a World (Das, Kleinman, Ramphele, Lock 2001). Among these studies, the present thesis ismainly attuned to Das’s writing on the interweaving of violence and the domestic sphere (2001, 2007, 2008).The similarity resides in the attention Das pays to the gendered ways in which violence and the memoriesthereof saturate the families who experienced the violence of the partition between India and Pakistan in1947, whether as victims or perpetrators, the boundary between them being permeable. Related to this workis also anthropologist Janet Carsten’s collection Ghosts of Memory (2007), in which the intersection ofmemory work and relatedness is explored through ethnographies of war and adversity. An outstanding workconcerning violence and social relationships is Michael Jackson’s book The Politics of Storytelling, where heputs forward the argument that violence is reciprocal (2002). Rather than understanding violence as anexternal event that befalls its victims, he sees violence as forming part of an intersubjective relationship(2002). In this regard Aaron Goodfellow and Sameena Mulla have coined, as a subject of anthropologicalanalysis, the term ‘compelling intimacies’, understood as ‘desires, affects, and affinities that arise at theintersection of institutions, actors, technologies, and ethical discourses to exert persuasive pressures on socialactors’ (2008: 258). The term indicates a comprehension of intimacy as not simply inherently protective of21


individuals and social relationships. This appears an apt premise for my analysis of relationships in the contextof enduring absence due to incarceration (Goodfellow and Mulla 2008). Together with Das and Jackson, thesescholars are expressive of how I think about violence as it is lived in the occupied territory at present. Thispositioning of my analysis indicates that, whereas my study is an ethnography of specific, Palestinian lives, thethesis’s main contribution is how anthropology can conceive of how indirect violence impinges on conjugaland kin relations.The study thus feeds into anthropological research on gender, violence and conflict, a field that hasgrown considerably during the last two decades. Below I outline three themes that permeate such research andreverberate in the present study too. One theme is how women and men experience war and violencedifferently. Because of how war-afflicted communities often, but not always, display forms of socialorganisation in which men chiefly operate in the public sphere and women in the domestic realm, it is alsomen who experience and participate in direct acts of violence. This makes women’s experience of violencederivative and fundamentally different from the experiences of men. This is documented, for instance, bysocial scientists Shelia Meintjes, Anu Pillay and Meredeth Turshen in their anthology The Aftermath: Womenin Post-Conflict Transformation (2001). Anthropologist Mamphela Ramphele has written extensively aboutwomen who are related to the black resistance fighters in South Africa and the ambiguous situation this hasentailed for these women (Ramphele 1997). For the sake of comparison, I refer to Ramphele’s work later inthis introduction. An important point in the works I have mentioned is how wartime dynamics are related, ifnot reflective of social structure during peacetime. This is underlined by the anthropologist Maria Olujic inher examination of forms of violence in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia during the war in ex-Yugoslavia in1991-1992 (Olujic 1998). She argues that pre-existing socio-cultural dynamics are highlighted in the sexualviolence inflicted on women during the war (ibid.).A second point that appears similar in spite of vast differences across diverse conflicts is howwomen seem to figure as containers of untold memories and experiences. Silence thus cuts across the work ofDas on violence in India (2007, 1997), the anthropologist Laura Ring’s study of Pakistani women anddomestic peacemaking in times of escalated ethnic tension (Ring 2006) and the anthropologist FrancescaDeclich’s study of Somali women’s untold stories about sexual violence (Declich 2001). Silence is analyseddifferently by these scholars, yet it appears transversely as a mechanism of both individual resilience and therespective communities’ attempts to keep some of women’s war-related experience out of collective andinstitutionalised memories of communal conflict. Silence and the containment of violent experience thereforeinvites discussion of what are often termed cultural modes of healing (Argenti-Pillen 2003). As my researchmakes apparent, containment and silence concerning particular forms of gendered suffering may keeptogether the larger community at the cost of a failure to acknowledge personal experiences.Thirdly, a number of studies have examined how the suffering of war-afflicted societiescommunicates their adversity to a global audience. Common to such communication is how psychology andpsychiatry offer a language in which to document the severity and prevalence of suffering. As the scholarVanessa Pupavac has shown, the influx of foreign therapists to ex-Yugoslavia in the wake of the civil war wasunprecedented and engendered a regime of therapeutic governance (Pupavac 2001). However, the psychiatristDaya Somasunderam has pointed to the importance of a psychological language in mobilising global22


understanding, attention and funding in the rehabilitation of war-torn societies (1998). The influence of thepsychiatric diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has and continues to saturate the global representationof war-related suffering to a global audience (Fassin and Rechtman 2009). Through her research on aesthetics,commemoration and the representation of suffering in the occupied territory, Allen has demonstrated howPalestinian suffering is currently communicated to an audience that is external to the actual conflict through a‘politics of immediation’ that is constituted by affect, visuality and human rights (Allen 2009). The Palestinianpolitics of immediation manifests itself by appealing to the world’s sympathy through elaborate, visualexpressions of the human, Palestinian body dismembered, crying or killed (ibid.). 10 Allen’s findings provide animportant background to my study of how affect is configured around the detainees.An examination of how affect is configured around and within the families of Palestinian detaineesis, however, sensitive because the detainees are perceived in Palestinian society to be at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As previously stated, examining ‘the Palestinian family’ is already a sensitive subject due toits being represented locally as what can never be defeated by the Israeli occupation. This double intricacy ofresearching family relations is enforced by how Arab and Muslim families have been at the forefront of thecontemporary global discourse, resting on Samuel Huntington’s thesis about the ‘Clash ofCivilisations’ (Huntington, 1992). Within this discourse, the family in the Middle East is presented astraditionally patriarchal. Whereas patriarchy structures Palestinian society (Muhawi and Kanaana 1988: 13),the ambiguities have to do with the connotations of ‘traditional patriarchy’, which within this discourse isassociated with oppression of women and male dominance at odds with civilised democratic values in thepolitical discourse of ‘the West and the rest’, ‘the Axis of Evil’ and other discourses resting on Huntington’ sthesis, (cf. Asad 2007, Massad 2005). As Edward Said noted in his famous work Orientalism, this politicalclimate is embedded in academic research in and of the Middle East (Said 1977).The perception of Arab families as comprising stale ideas and practices of gender is currentlypresented as an inherent trait of Islam globally, mainly in the western media, yet also in academia (Mernissi1996, 1991, Moghadam 2004). Combined with the fact that Palestinian society is arguably characterised bystrong ideas of identity (cf. Johnson 1982), I make my analytical and methodological choices in the hope ofoffering an alternative optic on the Palestinian family and intimate relationships in the occupied territory.Despite the occupied territory being a Muslim society, 11 I have chosen not to foreground Islam and practicesof religion as an explicit part of my investigation. This apparently radical choice is informed by an observationmade by Abu-Lughod (2002: 783): studies of women across the Arab peninsula appear obsessed with ‘theplight of Muslim women’, thus feeding into the above discourse of Middle Eastern society as inherently10By feeding into the field of anthropology of gender and conflict this study speaks to what is termed ‘appliedanthropology’. Hesitant towards a distinction between applied and academic anthropology I have during myresearch engaged with NGOs involved with psychosocial interventions in the occupied territory (See chapter II forfurther discussion of this). The thesis, however, does not have as an aim to address or offer solutions for thecomplexities I point out in work of the NGOs. My interest in global, psychological discourse rests on it being aninstantiation of the interstice between experience and the standing language available to understand, communicateand acknowledge such experience.11According to the Palestinian National Bureau of Statistics, 98% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza areMuslims (Passia 2008).23


oppressive towards women. As Abu-Lughod states, emphasising the religious aspect of identity often glossesover the political background for a particular situation of marginalisation (ibid.) Since my object of inquiry isperceptions and experiences of suffering, an analytic foregrounding religion would easily slip into suchpredictable studies. As will become apparent, it is precisely the political configuration of affect in the occupiedterritory that is of overarching importance to understanding my interlocutors’ lives. I do not mean to suggestthat religion is unimportant to my interlocutors. Rather, it is actualised in the relations I have studied, and Ihave addressed it explicitly when it has been it relevant for the analysis. The thesis should therefore not be readas a study of women, Islam and the Middle East. Rather, my study offers an analysis of the less discernableconsequences of continuous conflict and how it is worked into, accentuates or contests local notions ofkinship and relations.From an epistemological perspective, studies of gender and patriarchy from the 1970s and towardsthe end of the 1980s were shaped by what has been termed ‘second-wave feminism’ (Haraway 1991; Harding1996, 1991). The aim of this theoretical framework was to demonstrate the unequal status of women within asupposedly universally applicable cultural system favouring men. In anthropology, the main piece of work thatcrystallises this approach is Sherry Ortner’s article ‘Is female to male as nature is to culture?’ (Ortner 1974).Regionally, studies by Moghadam (2004), Mohanty (1988) and Mernissi (1996, 1991) drew attention to andunderlined the oppressiveness inherent in social structures in the Middle East. Towards the end of the 1980s,the trend shifted towards emphasising human agency in both feminist studies and anthropology. Amongworks of this kind in the Middle East, Abu-Lughod’s studies of Bedouin women in Egypt (1986 (2000),1993) are key. Abu-Lughod neither romanticises women’s resistance towards patriarchy, nor adheres to aFoucauldian fashion of utter subjection to hegemony. Instead she argues that the women among the Awlad‘Ali Bedouins express their criticisms of and opposition to their patriarchially organised clans in women’sintimate forums. Voicing criticisms occurs through the performance of songs and the recital of traditionalpoetry about conjugal love (ibid.).A further pivotal contribution of Abu-Lughod to the study of women in the Middle East has beenher comprehensive discussion of how the ‘gatekeeping concepts’ of as-šaraf (honour) and āib (shame), ratherthan stale ideology, are worked out and negotiated in everyday interactions among her interlocutors (Abu-Lughod 1986 (2000): 87). Honour and shame also figure in my ethnography. As the anthropologist DianeBaxter writes in her analysis of West Bank Palestinians, however, there is a tendency for an investigationcarved out along the lines of honour and shame to risk reducing rich ethnographic material to a discussion ofmale dominance versus female submission in the Middle East (Baxter 2007). In line with the objective of thisthesis, namely to provide an alternative account of gendered relations in the occupied territory, I have chosento background honour and shame in order to pave the way for an analysis of gendered relations in the familiesof detainees that rests on the notion of relations outlined earlier.A significant attempt to rethink agency and gender in the Middle East is the anthropologist SabaMahmood’s efforts to conceptualise agency outside a liberal framework. Her notion of agency ‘not as asynonym for resistance to relations of domination but as a capacity for action that historically specificrelations of subordination enable and create’ (Mahmood 2001) has become an influential way of thinkingabout agency in anthropological studies of women in the Middle East (cf. Baxter 2007, Abu-Lughod 2002,24


Sa’ar 2001). In the occupied territory, the focus on agency in academic analysis converged with al-Intifāa alawwalfrom 1987-1993. The historical circumstances of al-Intifāa al-awwal constitute a particular momentin time. As Jean-Klein has so carefully described (2003), men and women participated side by side in theresistance to the occupation. This new equality in how resistance was structured was accompanied by a hopefor lasting social change. This hope also saturated scholarly production based on research about al-Intifāa alawwal(cf. Sabbagh 1998). As in other places of protracted conflict where gender structures are temporallytransformed during times of war, this change did not settle when the conflict turned from war to the sizzlingunrest characterising post-conflict settings that have returned to the normal state of affairs (Refslund Sørensen1998). This fact has been documented in studies of, for instance, Sri Lanka (ibid.) and South Africa, whereblack women’s participation in resistance activities against the apartheid regime did not bring about genderequality at the level of social structure once the struggle had ended and ‘normal‘ life was resumed (Meintjes,Pillay and Turshen 2001).In terms of the occupied territory, it is important to pause for a moment with the idea of returningto normal: the situation after al-Intifāa al-awwal was different from before with regard to how, as an effect ofthe so-called Oslo accords, the Palestinian infrastructure became legally and territorially entwined andregulated by Israeli occupational practices, donor programmes and flows of money (Kelly 2007; Hanafi andTabar 2005; Roy, 2001, 2007). In the course of my research, Palestinian men and women alike have statedthat, although there are greater opportunities for women in terms of education and employment, the slow butsteady contraction of space for manoeuvring has turned not only women’s but every person’s agency to all buta shadow (Shalhoub-Kevorkian 2003). It follows that caution should be exercised when applyinganthropological and sociological analyses based on research undertaken during al-Intifāa al-awwal and in thefirst hopeful years after the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993 to the contemporary situation. Accordingly, Ihesitate to employ such studies in the analytical framing of my ethnographic data, which, as mentioned, wereproduced more than a decade later, namely between 2007 and 2009. Conversely, analyses like those of Kelly(2007), Gren (2009) and Allen (2006, 2009), produced during or after al-Intifā a al-Aqsa 12 , serve as a timelyintellectual context for the present study. Although none of these analyses have gender as their centre ofgravity but rather address, respectively, the everyday lives of refugees (Gren 2009), Israeli and Palestinianjurisdiction (Kelly 2006) and martyr commemoration, affect and aesthetics in the West Bank (Allen 2007,2009), these works provide sophisticated ethnographic backdrops to my investigation of conjugal and kinrelations in the face of enduring, non-linear absence. Whereas all the approaches to kinship outlined in thispart of the chapter analyse relations as part of larger systems of official, representational and practical kinship,and even in the context of violence, none of them specifically address relationships in the light of theparticular form of time as non-linear. In order to show further how to think about relations and the work of12Intifada al-Aqsa is also referred to as the second Intifada. It was initiated with former Israeli Prime Minister ArielSharon stepping on to the most holy site for Muslims in the occupied territory The Temple Mount in the old cityin Jerusalem during September 2000. His act sparked an uprising mainly driven by young men organised in militantgroups. The al-Aqsa Intifada does not have a collectively agreed end. One of my informants stated that it lasteduntil the autumn of 2003 where Arafat from his house arrest in Ramallah withdrew his support to armedresistance. Others have it that Arafat’s death in 2004 and the change of leadership marks the end of Intifadaal-Aqsa.25


absence caused by enduring incarceration, in the next section I outline an understanding of time that allowsthe relationship between the two to be conceptualised.I.IV Temporality and Non-linear DurationTime as different temporalities and their resonances, as much as the interstices between them, is a centralconcern of this thesis. This is due to the challenge posed by my ethnographic material about absence that doesnot follow a linear temporality of event, emotional reaction and an attendant aftermath. Events of violencehave, however, characterised anthropological studies of suffering and healing, with an emphasis on how itsvictims or perpetrators narrativise or otherwise make sense of such events in the context of their lives (Daniel1996; Jackson 2002, 2001). One example of this form of anthropology would be a thesis that evolved aroundmy interlocutors’ personal narratives of violent events. Such events are often marked by spectacularcharacteristics that make them stand apart from the everyday as a radical otherness that has suddenly enteredthe life-worlds of those who engage in violence as either victims or perpetrators or both. Designating eventsare thus that they occur at a particular moment and last for a definite duration in order to halt at anothermoment in time. These markers of events are what make them apt for analysis in anthropology, as in the‘extended case study’, a still important part of our epistemological heritage conceived by the ManchesterSchool (Van Velsen 1967, Mitchell 1983).As has been documented through the anthropologist Allan Young’s study of the diagnosis of PostTraumatic Stress Disorder (Young 1995), events as the scope of analysis also dominate the discipline ofpsychology through its interest in the notion of trauma and traumatic memory that were cemented in westernthought with Freud’s writings in the early twentieth century (Freud 1928). Particularly in research on sufferingrelated to violent events, there seems to be an overlap between the ways in which anthropology andpsychology write and theorise their subject matters as respectively event and aftermath. Historian Ruth Leyshas examined the use of the notion of ‘trauma’ across disciplines, linking its influence to the literature onwitnessing in and the proliferation of biomedical models of understanding affliction (Leys 2000). Howeverapt events and a linear temporality of suffering may be in understanding and further conceptualising afflictionin anthropology, such a framework does not aid an understanding of suffering that is characterised by nonlinearduration.Against this background, I will use the following summary of different notions of temporality tooutline a non-linear understanding of time useful in comprehending my ethnographic material. I followanthropologist Matt Hodges in his attempt to conceptualise a temporal framework apt for anthropologicalanalysis through ‘a more dynamic model of socio-temporal experience that facilitates fuller integration oftemporal analysis with models of socio-historical practice’ (Hodges 2008: 406). The problem of thetheorisation of time hitherto in anthropology is that, according to Hodges, it has been treated as anunspecified ‘flow’ or ‘flux’ (Hodges 2008: 400). Among the most notable contemporary anthropologists tohave conceptualised time are Nancy Munn (Munn 1983, 1992 in Hodges 2008) and Alfred Gell (Gell 1992).However, whereas Gell distinguishes between an objective, A series and a subjective, B series of time, Munncan be said to be mainly concerned with lived time, that is, time as it is used and put to use for the sake ofpower, institutionalisation and individual pursuits. She is thus concerned with how space and time fold into26


each other and become a space-time that is lived concretely (Munn 1983: 280, in Hodges 2008). Gell’s andMunn’s ideas of time are therefore distinct, but common to them is the fact that they are imbued withspatialised metaphors which hinder the development of what Hodges terms a more dynamic model of sociotemporalexperience. Since my concern is a dynamic rather than a linear understanding of time, I align myselfwith Hodges’s critiques of both Munn and Gell. In his aim to further such thinking in anthropology, Hodgesexamines Bergson’s theory of durée (hereafter ‘duration’) alongside Deleuzes’s interpretation thereof (Hodges2008: 414). Through my reading of Bergson, mainly through Deleuze’s Bergsonism (Deleuze 1988), I havefound the way in which Bergson ponders the relationship between time and space, as well as past, present andfuture, to be fertile ground for analysing my ethnographic material.According to Bergson, duration has a dual meaning, comprising the duration of lived experience orthe span of a subjective life. In addition, duration is the ‘condition of experience’ that is made up ofmultiplicities of time and space (Deleuze 1988: 37). Crucial to the understanding of duration is Bergson’sdistinction between the virtual and the actual. The virtual equals duration. In Deleuze’s words ‘The virtual is(therefore) real without being actual, ideal without being abstract’ (Deleuze 1994: 264). The actual cannot bedistinguished from what Bergson terms the process of actualisation. It is pertinent to understand that it is thevirtual that allows for actualisation, not the virtual that is actualised. Actualisation occurs when durationcreates lines of differentiation whose numerical differences correspond to the differences that are exterior andthat therefore become part of the dimension of the actual. The spatial multiplicity refers to differencesintrinsic to the actual, what I have earlier described as differences in degree (Deleuze 1988: 38). Themultiplicity concerning time is ‘pure duration’: it belongs to the virtual, and its differentiations are nonnumericaland qualitative, what Bergson conceptualises as differences in kind (ibid.)Whereas Bergson’s thinking about duration, the virtual and the actual may seem a more abstractversion of the structuralist notion of langue and parole (Saussure 1915 (1965)), the difference between thesetwo theoretical frameworks is how time is explicitly conceptualised in the former, but not taken intoconsideration in, for instance, Lévi-Strauss’s analyses of kin relations. This, in essence, is why I draw on atheoretical framework from the discipline of philosophy rather than anthropology. I do so acknowledgingthat the alliance between anthropology and philosophy is not uncomplicated. Jackson criticises philosophy astaking its point of departure in a place outside the here and now of the human lives it pretends to understand( Jackson 2009: 235). Anthropological theory, on the other hand, is constituted by an engagement withpeople’s life-worlds, a centre of gravity that allows for an understanding closer to the lives it attempts torepresent (ibid.) However, as I reflect on my ethnographic material, it seems that it does not easily map on tobasic assumptions regarding, as already stated, the progression of time prevailing in anthropology, not leastthe anthropology of narrative. To comprehend and accommodate my interlocutors, it has been necessary tothink through theory far removed from the everyday in order to return to the everyday and understand whatis at stake there. Pondering the analytical potential of Deleuze’s and Bergson’s work in terms of understandingthe poignancy of temporality in my material, I outline three temporalities that are contained within the sameduration.The first temporal dimension of concern to my ethnographic data is the occupied territory, which isconceived less as a territorial and more as a durational entity in which different conflicts reverberate over the27


same theme, namely the struggle for territory between Israel and the Palestinians (Kublitz forthcoming). Adecisive event in this history is al-Nakba, Arabic for ‘the Catastrophe’. Al-Nakba refers to the displacement ofmore than 700,000 Palestinians from what is now the state of Israel (Pappe 2007). The Anthropologist AnjaKublitz argues that, while delineated in time and space as the birth of the state of Israel in 1948, al-Nakba isrepeated in every single Israeli act of battle, killing or other humiliation against the Palestinians in theoccupied territory (Kublitz forthcoming). In this contemporaneous manner, al-Nakba is less past than present(Abu-Lughod and Sa’di 2007).Part of the repetition of al-Nakba in everyday adversity can be thought about as subjective durationthat is comprised in the duration of the occupied territory. Duration is therefore also the lifespan of asubjective life in which the duration of the occupied territory lies underneath, and where events such as birth,death, marriage and violence may be actualised as distinct, numerical events.A second significant duration is the subjective duration of the women whose lives are at the centreof this study. Considered through Bergson’s terminology, this implies that the subjective duration that makesup the women’s lives can be thought of as a differentiation of the third duration, namely the duration of theirhusband’s prison sentences.The pregnancy of thinking through temporality is that it furthers reflection about the everyday notas a series of events but as repetitious. Whereas events figure as the spine of anthropological analysis and aswhat holds the potential for a theoretisation of life as lived (cf. Jackson 2009: 236), it is my hope that aforegrounding of temporality in analysis can further anthropological understanding of how humanrelationships are configured through an ordinary life that is imbued with the presence of violence but is at thesame time uneventful. It is to this end that I examine how the resonance and interstices between the durationof the occupied territory, those of subjective life as well as the duration of a prison sentence, allow us to graspthe variation and repetition of the everyday of the wives of Palestinian detainees. The actual lives of thesewomen can be thought of as a differentiation of the three mentioned durations. This framework contests thetemporality of suffering as linear. In particular, it questions the notion of an aftermath, that is, the time after aviolent event in which the pieces of normal life are presumably picked up and reassembled. In the instance ofmy interlocutors, the everyday is where violence, betrayal and fear are actualised. There is no ‘after’ in the liveslived by these women, due precisely to the resonance between their duration and the duration of theirhusbands’ prison sentences and the duration of the occupied territory.Whereas this conceptualisation of time, relations and subjectivity elicits a bleak representation ofthe families of political detainees, my thesis is an argument neither against recovery nor against agency in theshadow of violence. Rather, recovery and the continued actualisation of violence exist temporally,simultaneously and inseparably from the everyday duration of the detainees’ wives. I argue that the durationof the prison sentence and its resonance with the duration of the women’s lives cause the present to repeatedlycontract, thus never allowing the women to anticipate the future. At the interstices of such contractions, timeis, according to Bergson, dilated time (Deleuze 1988: 61). In the context of my ethnography, dilated timeimplies the time it takes for a loaf of bread to bake in a - abūn (a traditional outdoor oven) and the time thatgoes into picking all the olives from the trees and collecting them from the ground. Dilated time allows one tobreathe to the slow rhythm of the everyday because the practices making it up are expected, ordinary and28


epetitive.The concepts of duration and temporality allow me to grasp those parts of my interlocutors’ livesthat are neither violent events nor spectacular happenings of either misery or happiness. They allow me tocomprehend how the non-linear duration of a prison sentence configures not only the conjugal relationshipbetween a detainee and his wife, but also the pivotal relations and spheres of the ordinary that constitute thelives of the detainees’ wives. The actual ways in which this configuration is worked into the relations aroundthe detainee’s wives is the topic of the following chapters.I.V Affect and Being AffectedThe second line of thinking that grounds this thesis’s trajectory concerns how affect is actualised in theconfiguration of relations that occurs through the non-linear duration of an absent, detained husband fromthe everyday life of his family. The overarching concern of the thesis is the interstices between how thissituation is experienced by the women who are married to long-term detainees and how this experience isperceived and acted upon in the occupied territory. As such, this thesis is about feelings or emotionscirculating around the situation of being the wife of a detainee. Positioning my inquiry between the personaland the collective, however, I am hesitant in using the available vocabulary in anthropology to address theseissues. Much anthropology has been written about emotions (cf. Wulff 2007, Lutz and Abu-Lughod 1990,Rosaldo 1989) as the social constructions of subjective feelings (Blackman and Cromby 2007: 5). In a reviewof key psychological understandings of emotion, feeling and affect, the psychologists Lisa Blackman and JohnCromby present a dominant psychological conceptualisation of emotion as ‘those patterned brain/bodyresponses that are culturally recognisable and provide some unity, stability and coherence to the feltdimensions of our relational encounters (Blackman and Cromby 2007: 6). This view corresponds to theanthropological understanding of emotions as subjective feelings constructed socially. Anthropologist HelenaWulff writes in her introduction to The Emotions: A Cultural Reader (2007): ‘Access to emotions and feelingsin anthropology often takes place through participating in or witnessing events of interlocutors’ emotionaloutlets’ (2007: 3). Such events also occurred during my fieldwork. But, the configuration of feelings and theexpression of them by my interlocutors were less dramatic but nonetheless part of my entire ethnography.Whereas a certain chink between world, experience and language runs through the way I ponder myethnography, I feel compelled to look beyond anthropology for concepts that can help to convey what is themost poignant theme in my ethnography, namely feelings and experiences at the nexus of public and personalnotions of what it means to live a conjugal relationship when one partner is imprisoned for anything betweenfifteen years and life.In their analyses of intimate relations at the cross-section of the domestic, institutions, technologyand social relations, the anthropologists who figure elsewhere in this thesis (Das 2008, Goodfellow and Mulla2008) have referred to sociologist Brian Massumi’s work on affect presented in the introduction to Deleuzeand Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus (Deleuze and Guattari 1987). Here Massumi defines affect/affection asfollows:Neither word denotes a personal feeling (sentiment in Deleuze and Guattari). L’affect (Spinoza’s29


affectus) is an ability to affect and be affected. It is a prepersonal intensity corresponding to thepassage from one experiential state of the body to another and implying an augmentation ordiminution in that body’s capacity to act. L’affection (Spinoza’s affectio) is each such stateconsidered as an encounter between the affected body and a second, affecting body (with bodytaken in its broadest possible sense to include ‘mental’ or ideal bodies (Deleuze and Guattari 1987:xvi).Underlined in this definition of affect is that it is not personal but refers to interpersonal exchanges that affecta change in a bodily state. In this manner, Massumi’s definition can tentatively be read as resonating with aclassical, psychological understanding of affect as pure feeling. However, Massumi stresses elsewhere thataffect does not refer to romantic notions of raw feeling (Massumi 1995: 90).With the evocation of affect as intensity, Massumi’s concept of affect is only partially pertinent to the affectcirculating in and around my interlocutors. In my ethnographic material, affect comprises, for instance, thenational appeal for umūd in the face of misery, as well narratives that stress particular aspects of suffering andthat silence others (cf. Carsten, Ghosts of Memory 2007). And, while Das and others have imported it intoanthropology, at the same time Das criticises Massumi’s location of affect so firmly within the body as an actof reducing affect to bodily states of varying intensity. 13 As such, Massumi’s definition appears closer to theneuropsychological emphasis of thinking about emotions as the presence of adrenalin or lack of dopamine inthe human body. Were I to employ Massumi’s understanding of affect uncritically, I would run the risk ofrepresenting my female interlocutors as connoted by pure feeling, thereby tapping into the universallyperceived opposition between men as representatives of pure, rational reason and women as representatives ofirrational feeling. These are not the connotations I wish to insinuate by using the term ‘affect’. Rather, affect inthis thesis comprises the social management of affect in and around the families of detainees. A study of affectcan convey how it feels to live a life married to an incarcerated husband and how such a situation is supposedto feel for the detainees’ wives according to Palestinian values of heroism and resistance and a globalpsychological discourse presuming that such wives simply get on with their lives in the face of their husbands’enduring absence.In other words, then, it is with some hesitancy that I employ Massumi’s notion of affect. Whathinges his definition to my concerns is precisely affect understood as ‘the ability to affect and be affected’.With this as my point of departure, I hope to point out how anthropology can address feelings and emotionsthat, while experienced subjectively in a relational universe, are configured in the structures of feelingsdescribed by cultural sociologist Raymond Williams as braided into subjective experience and in which affectis configured (Williams 1977). Understood in this sense, affect is not something in itself. Rather it floats, ismoulded and becomes between subjects, relations, institutions and technologies, delineating, for instance,what are accepted as legitimate ways of expressing suffering, what should be expressed and what is betterretained as known, but unspoken.13 Das voiced this critique in her keynote address at the Seminar ‘Spectacular Blindness’ organised by PhD studentHelene Risør and I in May 2009 under the auspices of the Danish Research School for Ethnography andAnthropology and the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims in Copenhagen.30


A significant part of the structure of feelings around detainees’ families is the issue of materiality. InChapter IV, I discuss how the display of photos, embroidery and artefacts made by detainees duringincarceration are expressions that, to an audience of family, community and fellow Palestinians, disclosenational and political values. Drawing on the work of Mauss, anthropologists Daniel Miller and Fiona Parrothave examined the nexus between loss, commemoration and objects in South London (Parrot 2010). Parrotargues that commemorative objects are sites of contestation that configure the presence of the deceased in thelife of the bereaved (ibid.). As will become apparent, this speaks to how commemorations of aš-šuhada’ andevocations of al-asra’ are enacted in the domestic sphere of their families. As Carsten writes, in theintroduction to Ghosts of Memory:Through large-scale political events, as well as the institutional structures of the state that impingeon personal or familial life, kinship emerges as a particular kind of sociality in which certain formsof temporality and memory-making and certain dispositions towards the past, present, and futureare made possible, while others are excluded. (Carsten 2007: 5)Everyday expressions of politics and loyalty offer insight into the configuration of affect during the non-linearduration of absence of the detainees. This is opposed to the linear and final absence of a husband who hasbecome a šahīd, that is, has died fighting the occupation (Asad 2007: 48). As already mentioned, thedifference between the two is contested, and their converging and differing affect is continuously compared byPalestinians. In this sense, my use of the notion of affect also connotes those remainders of personal experiencethat question the entire way in which the structure of feeling configures Palestinian society. I claim that we canconceive of the affect in and around the women that are the focus of this study as an expression of theseremainders. The term I employ to characterise this affect is as stated Freud’s notion of the uncanny (Freud1919 (2003): 124). In his comprehension of the uncanny, Freud draws on the German terms Heimlich(homely) and Unheimlich (unhomely). By referring to the unhomely as what was once homely, Freud captureshow they form part of each other, each being the other’s shadow. The uncanny therefore appears apt tounderstanding the configuration of affect around the families that are my focus here.The configuration of affect moulds whatever is ordinary to the women who are married to politicaldetainees. The women’s ordinary is braided through how affect is lived and configured and what temporalitydoes to it. My premise is that the ordinary does not exist a priori but is actualised through the lines ofdifferentiation that engender the everyday (Das 2007: 7). The Palestinian term ādi (normal, ordinary) andthe way it is accompanied by a shrug of the shoulder in any such instances is emblematic of what can be takento belong to the ordinary in the occupied territory. The ordinary may have the potential of being redemptive,but it is simultaneously permeated with something existing in parallel with it. Conversely, the intersection ofduration, the ordinary and the affect it configures are keys to engage with in order to understand under whatconditions the familiar can become uncanny and frightening in the occupied territory.I.VI Acknowledgement, Life and CriteriaThe final theoretical premise of this thesis is that there seems to be a loss, or gap, of knowledge and31


acknowledgement regarding the lives and experiences of the wives of detainees. This gap becomes apparentthrough these women’s absence from public discourse and is striking due to the elaborate discourse on thelives and sufferings of the widows of martyrs. While the Palestinian collective imagination and discourse tendsnominally to include the wives of detainees in this same category, that of martyr’s widows, there are significantdifferences between the two. As will be revealed in the course of the thesis, while the lives and experiences ofdetainees’ wives are included in what I term ‘the standing language of knowing and acknowledging suffering inthe occupied territory’, they simultaneously seem to slip the criteria on which their inclusion rests, namely thatthey are related to, and therefore secondary victims of, violent events that have befallen their husbands. Thisslip points us to the theme of acknowledgement and the relationship between life and the notions we employas we reflect about life and meaning. My thinking about these issues is indebted to Das (1998, 2007) and herattempt to bring Wittgenstein into anthropology with regard to language and forms of life (1998). Alsointroduced to me by Das is Cavell’s examination of precisely these issues through an engagement withWittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations (Cavell 1979).My comprehension of the failure of acknowledgement of the wives of detainees begs a clarificationof what I mean by the term ‘language’. Following Das, I refer to the entanglement of words and worlds asfollows: ‘The words are to be understood as both the words and the actions in which they are woven’ (Das1998: 174). As Kirsten Hastrup notes (1995), such a view of language is not referring to a 1:1 relationshipbetween language and the world: the notion of entanglement is to be taken literally. So is Wittgenstein’sassumption that languages are never complete (Das 1998: 179), a certain dissatisfaction being built into theiruse. Das argues that the way in which words can become hooked in life is through the excess of detailscharacteristic of ethnography and thus through participation in ‘forms of life’, Wittgenstein’s term connotingsociality (Wittgenstein 1953 (2009): 15).Notably, Cavell claims that there is a duality to forms of life that is often missed in anthropology (Das 1998:1980): only forms, understood as different cultures, seem to grasp our attention as anthropologists. Normalforms of life definitions appear to concern only language in the context of lived life. In contrast, Cavellemphasises form and life, both the natural and the social. There is therefore an ethnological or horizontalform of life and a vertical or biological form of life. ‘It is the vertical sense of the form of life that he suggestsmarks the limit of what is considered human in a society and provides the conditions of the use of criteria asapplied to others’ (Das 1998: 180). I introduce the notions of form of life and criteria because they relate tomy claim that there seem to be criteria on which the acknowledgement of suffering is based, and that the wivesof detainees fail these criteria. While those criteria do not translate directly into Wittgenstein’s criteria, 14 Ithink about the relation between Wittgenstein’s criteria of forms of life as resonating 15 with the criteria on thebasis of which suffering is acknowledged in the occupied territory.Cavell’s discussion of ‘aspect blindness’ helps us understand how the standing language can bothinclude and fail to acknowledge the lives and sufferings of detainees’ wives (1979: 368). The classic duck-14 There is an argument to be made that the criteria with which I am concerned translates into what Wittgensteinterms ‘judgements’ (cf. Cavell 1979), which rest on the underlying agreement in criteria that form the basis ofintelligibility (ibid.).15 For elaboration of the notion of ‘resonance’, see part III.32


abbit illusion captures this ambiguity perfectly: Studying the picture, the spectator either sees a duck or arabbit, yet while he/she sees one of them, the other is hidden. Cavell argues that how we see pictures isanalogous with our relationship with words:Putting together the ideas that noticing an aspect is being struck by a physiognomy; that wordspresent familiar physiognomies; that they can be thought of as pictures of their meaning; that words have alife and can be dead for us; that ‘experiencing a word is meant to call attention to our relation to our words;that our relation to pictures is in some respects like our relation to what they are pictures of; I would like tosay that the topic of our attachment to our words is allegorical of our attachments to ourselves and to otherpersons. (Cavell 1979: 355)What will appear in the course of the thesis are those aspects of the detainees’ wives’ circumstances thatgenerate aspect blindness. Cavell suggests that knowledge about the other can be blocked, in the sense thatknowledge about the other fails to dawn on the knower (1979: 368). Through the braiding of ethnographyfrom the assemblage of my fieldwork, I reveal what makes up the substance of this block concerning detainee’swives. Cavell argues that a failure of acknowledgement is never about a lack of knowledge but about my failureto see the other as myself.In this context, I engage with Cavell’s assertion that Shakespeare’s tragedies are imbued with askeptical structure. This understanding of tragedy points towards a reason for the failure of acknowledgementof the detainees wives: the argument I put forward is that the denial of acknowledgement of certain forms ofsuffering of the wives of detainees is located in how Palestinians think about their struggle for a nation-state. Ifthe full spectrum of the individual suffering, including culturally questionable feelings such as longing for thecompany of a man, that characterise the lives and circumstances of the detainees’ wives were acknowledged,the cost of the national struggle would be made clear. This would further entail that the premise on whichmen go to war, to prison or to die would be called into question. We can think about the denial ofacknowledging these aspects of the lives of detainees’ wives as an attempt to forfeit the skepticism and doubtthat would shake the ground on which the Palestinian struggle stands.With regard to what continuous violence does to communities, I draw attention to Das’s argumentthat certain forms of brutal, physical violence remains unspoken because, were they to be enunciated, thelimits of the human and of sociality would be contested (Das 1998). Das builds her argument on the violenceagainst women that occurred during the Partition between India and Pakistan. Then, women who had beenraped and physically disfigured were forced to walk naked through the streets of their own villages (ibid.).Containing this knowledge without voicing it was a way of staying within the forms of life that are consideredhuman.In the occupied territory, I would argue, it is the other way around. Brutal violence, dismemberedbodies and stories witnessing one’s entire family being slaughtered form part of regular conversations andexchanges of photos via email and mobile phones. It is events like these, experienced either by oneself or one’snearest, that will mark a life story even if the listener does not ask about such events. What remains unspokenbut known and contained by everyone is suffering that is indiscernibly woven into the thread of the ordinary,33


like betrayal or the fear of it among ones’ near but not always dear ones. Because such suffering is, however,configured during the non-linear absence of the detainees from their family, the aspect blindness fails thecriteria that are put in place to acknowledge suffering. As such, the failure of acknowledgement is aided by thecriteria on which it rests. The unspoken containment of the suffering and form of life that comes with beingmarried to the detainees is a way of not questioning the humanity of the very community to which onebelongs.I.VII Structure of the argumentFollowing Chapter II (‘Methodology’), I have organised the analytical chapters with an eye to mirroring thedifferent ways in which affect is configured in and around the detainees’ wives during their husbands’incarceration. Rather than employing a step-by-step mode of argumentation, I use each chapter to elucidatehow this configuration takes place in the different spheres and relations that actualise the ordinary ofdetainee’s wives. Every chapter thus conveys a particular constellation of relations in the light of the non-linearduration of absence that incarceration entails. Moreover, the structure of the argument works centrifugally:with each chapter, we take a further step into the intimate relations of the detainees’ wives.Part 1 of this thesis comprises the present introduction and Chapter II on methodology. It isfollowed by my analytical argument, which falls into two parts. The first is Part 2, which is entitled ādi – theaffected ordinary. This part concerns the dissonance between the standing language of knowing andacknowledging suffering in the occupied territory and the suffering it attempts to include. Within this frame,Chapter III contextualises suffering in the occupied territory. The chapter argues that the way in whichsuffering is known in the occupied territories rests on a linear notion of temporality. Due to the dissonancebetween this temporal premise and how the lives and affect of detainees’ wives are configured during the nonlinearduration of the absence of their husbands, there is a slip between how suffering is known and livedrespectively. The chapter positions itself in the unease with which I became familiar with how women’ssuffering in the occupied territory is known, particularly women related to detainees or martyrs. In the field ofpsychosocial interventions by NGOs, acknowledgement of these women’s experience is actualised through thenotion of ‘secondary traumatisation’. Within this context, both the widows and mothers of martyrs and thewives and mothers of detainees are included in this category. The premises for inclusion, however, are based onloss and bereavement due to their character as events. Addressing my sense of unease with these premises, Iemploy as a guide Cavell’s aforementioned distinction between knowledge and acknowledgement (Cavell1979) and his argument that acknowledgment goes beyond knowledge by having a moral dimension to it,formulated as ‘recognising what I know’ and acting upon it (Cavell 1969: 263). The difference betweenknowing and acknowledgement and how this relates to the lives of women connected to detainees andmartyrs is what I explore here. I suggest that how suffering is known in the global, psychological discourseresonates with the Palestinian vernacular in which everyday affliction is expressed in terms of events, heroismand endurance in the face of hardship. A discourse centred on events and trauma, I argue, is therefore not aforeign language of western psychiatry contrasting local understandings of suffering in the occupied territory.Rather, Palestinian counsellors speak about affect in this language of knowing suffering merging Palestinianand global notions of affliction. Inspired by Cavell (1979), I term the intersection of a Palestinian meta-34


narrative of suffering with a global, psychological discourses that sees affliction as hinged upon trauma thestanding language of knowing suffering in the occupied Palestinian territory. The chapter argues that an inherentdissonance is folded into the standing language and the experiences it attempts to describe and ameliorate.The backdrop to Chapter IV is that part of the standing language of knowing and acknowledgingsuffering in the occupied territory that is rooted in the Palestinian meta-narrative. Whereas the precedingchapter described the premise and criteria on which the acknowledgement of suffering is granted, Chapter IVconveys what these criteria fail to see, namely that the suffering permeating the everyday lives of the detainees’wives is characterised by a sense of uncanniness. I show how uncanniness is actualised in the wake of anincarcerated husband’s absence from the domestic sphere. Due to the non-linear temporality of his absence,the life of his relatives does not adhere to the temporality of suffering outlined in Chapter III. I examine howthe suffering of the wives of detainees and the widows of martyrs differ according to the nature of the absencethey live with following the detention or death of their husbands. The chapter contemplates the home as thesite of the ordinary where people sustain the domestic in the wake of violence. A basic theoretical premise ofthe chapter is Das’s writings about the ordinary when the memory and potentiality of violence form part ofthe everyday (Das 2007). I suggest that the difference between being a widow and being a detainee’s wife canbe summed up as a difference in how absence and loss are folded into the intimacy of practices that appearordinary, yet with an alteration that is omnipresent but unnoticeable.In Chapter V, I continue the preceding chapter’s analysis of the alterations of the ordinary that occurswith incarceration of a husband. Chapter V argues that the lived time of the detainees’ wives is derivativelymade uncanny through Israeli securitisation procedures related to their husbands’ imprisonment. The chaptershows how Israeli incarceration of Palestinian men structures the lives and everyday of detainees’ wivestemporally in a manner that is distinct from the temporality of trauma and aftermath. I analyse how thesecuritisation procedures cause the absence of the women’s husbands to be ever-present, how his absence andits associated violent event is actualised with every single practice that the women are forced to engage in ifthey wish to stay in touch with their husbands. I argue that the consequence of this is that the women becomecaptives of the immediate present, a present that never becomes a future because, in the instance the practice isaccomplished, these very practices must be repeated, thus forming a temporal contraction. Notably, there maybe an unnoticeable alteration in the repetitions, for instance, if Israel changes the procedures for applying forvisit permits or how to appeal against a ruling in court. This implies that it is never the same practice that isrepeated. It will become apparent how the lived temporality of the detainees’ wives is suspended between thefamiliar and the unfamiliar, and thus how it becomes uncanny.Part 3 of the thesis is entitled ‘Affected Relationships’. Chapter VI investigates the reverberations ofthe absence of a husband from the household and from the diversity of relationships that make up a family. Iargue that the absence of a husband from the domestic sphere of the house and the family causes the affinaland consanguineal relations around the detainees’ wives to contract. I describe how male absence due toincarceration actualises relational structures that are intrinsic to Palestinian understandings of kinshipconcerning the relationships between a wife and her family-in-law and a wife and her natal family respectively.The chapter thus analyses the multiplicity of threads that being married to a detainee weaves into socialrelationships. In doing so I hope to offer insights that are complementary to the Palestinian representation of35


affect as evolving solely around the nexus of heroism and suffering in the families of detainees.Chapter VII further develops an aspect of incarceration examined in Chapter V, namely thatincarceration alters the relationship between a wife and her detained husband. The chapter offers an analysisof that transformation from the position of the detainees’ wives. I investigate what may be severed when theconjugal relation is still in place, yet the body of the incarcerated husband is physically absent. The chapterdiscusses the meaning of physical absence in the continuum between the Palestinian notion of umūd on theone hand and Cavell’s claim on the other that the body is the only, and imperfect medium through which theother can be known and acknowledged (Cavell 1979: 356). The question in relation to the captive conjugate,then, becomes how a married couple knows each other when the body through which each other’s minds areknown has disappeared? In terms of the Palestinian political sentiments concerning those detained in Israeliprisons, sentiments expressed through the notion of umūd, one might speak about denial of the knowledgethat the detainee’s body is missing from the ordinary, insisting that his absence is solely a source of pride sinceit is a result of his acts of resistance. The chapter addresses questions of knowledge of the other,acknowledgement, betrayal and denial, and how these aspects of incarceration saturate the captive conjugate.In Chapter VIII, my concern is the detainees’ wives’ sense of self and experience of womanhood. Iargue that the configuration of affect that delineates the way the detainees’ wives are supposed and expected tofeel is related to motherhood. I point to the relationship between mother, father and children as a site ofcompelling intimacy in which the effects of incarceration are carved out. At the same time, I consider thepotential for recovery that this relationship holds for the captive family.In conclusion, I sum op the insights of the individual chapters and discuss how these findingsspeaks to the three overarching themes of the thesis namely, how non-linear time in the form of absenceshapes affect; how this absence moulds social relations; and how the acknowledgement of suffering is grantedor denied. Finally, I contemplate the value of Shakespearean tragedy and Freud’s notion of the uncanny in thecontext of the West Bank as a means to understand the threat of skepticism to the Palestinian meta-narrativeposed by the captive conjugate if their suffering were to be acknolwedged according to the standing language.36


Chapter IIMethodologyThis chapter contains reflections on the methodological choices I have made before, during and after myfieldwork. It is not an outline of my use of the ethnographic methods of interviews, participant observation,diary studies and surveys. Rather, the ensuing pages reveal how I have conceived methodologically of the sitesthat have made up my field, as well as their challenges, shortcomings and the kinds of knowledge I have beenable to generate from them. The chapter is structured around my main, de-territorialised sites of investigation:intimacy, Palestinian national sentiments, and global psychological discourse on trauma as a way to framePalestinian suffering. Subsequently I consider the challenges of working in a linguistic realm I only partlymastered and therefore entered accompanied by two Palestinian assistants. Thereafter follows a discussion ofthe ethnographic engagement that a study of suffering requires of the anthropologist and the implications ofproducing partial knowledge. This latter phrase was coined by Donna Haraway to suggest that scientificknowledge production is never extensive, nor final (Haraway 1991). Partial knowledge can be said to mirrorthe non-linear forms of temporality that have permeated this research project.II.I Delineating the FieldA time and a place that is emblematic of the overall character of my fieldwork is Wednesday mornings fromeleven to a bit before one in a chilly meeting room at the town hall in Dar Nūra in the West Bank. From thelate autumn of 2007 throughout the winter to the blooming of almond trees in February 2008, a grouptherapeutic project unfolded there under the auspice of the Prisoners’ Support Centre. 16 The target group wasfive women married to long-term detainees. These five women are the backbone of the thesis, not astherapeutic subjects alone, but as wives, mothers and daughters in relationships. The women knew each otherbefore they entered the therapeutic process because they all live in the same village of around 5000inhabitants. Since patrilateral parallel cousin marriage is the preferred form of marriage in the village, thewomen are related to each other through either consanguineal or affinal ties or both. They are thus folded intoeach other’s lives and know of each other either through first-hand accounts or, more often, by reputation. Theknowledge that circulated in the therapeutic group was therefore all but confidential. None of the women everrisked her reputation as the proud, dutiful wife of a heroic detainee.Leading the group were a therapist and a co-therapist who both attended Birzeit University, wherethey earned BAs in psychology and education. Their continued training is being undertaken by the Prisoners’Support Centre, through short courses in therapeutic methodologies with trainers from either Europe orNorth America.On the first two occasions, the group met downstairs in the library of Dar Nūra’s town hall. Withchildren browsing through books and secretaries working with open doors, the library proved not to be16 Details about the Prisoners’ Support Centre are provided later on in this chapter. Suffice it to say here that bothits name and that of its location are fictional in order to protect the confidentiality of the organisation and its employees.Since I do not consider this thesis to be an institutional ethnography, the information I provide about thecentre mainly takes the form of ethnographic instances that offer insight into the notions of suffering on whichthe organisation rests.38


appropriate as a therapeutic space. Since one of the women in the group enjoyed a high position in the village,the group was thereafter allowed to meet in the meeting room adjacent to the mayor’s office. Moving twofloors up and under the auspices of the council, we were served tea and coffee by the council’s cook at everymeeting. When the women who formed part of the group met and asked each other whether they wouldattend the next session, they would say ‘bt-rohi la al-baladiyyeh’? (are you going to the town-hall?), rather thanreferring to it as either a woman’s group or a therapeutic process. In this way the women desensitised the factthat they were part of a process that addressed as problematic their lives as being related to detainees. Thesensitivity of this process rests on the local assumption that being related to a detainee entails feelings ofhonour and pride due to this connection with someone who has been active against the Israeli occupation.Being the wife of a detainee is therefore not considered a legitimate reason for suffering save for the afflictionthat the wife may feel on behalf of her detained husband.Assuming that the meetings may serve as therapeutic spaces also entails assuming that there is aboundary between the meetings and the lives beyond the therapeutic encounters. Throughout the thesis itwill become clear that this boundary is porous, thus contradicting the therapists’ assumption that atherapeutic space is a premise for a process of healing to take place (Burmeister and Marciel 2007). Thetherapists who facilitated the group therapy were both Palestinian women in their late twenties and thus alittle younger than the women who were their therapeutic subjects. The therapists were nonetheless no lessPalestinian subjects than the women who were the object of the intervention. To the former, the husbands ofthe women in the group represented some of the great heroes of al-Intifā a al-Aqsa due to their involvementin resistance against Israel. The two therapists, however, also belong to the growing Palestinian middle classmade up of the employees of local and international NGOs in the occupied territory (Hanafi and Tabar2005). They were excited about the group project, but also frustrated over the lack of results their effortsearned them with the women, the tiresome, bumpy drive from Nablus with as-servīs (the minibus) and thetime constraints imposed on them by the head of the clinical department at the Detainee’s Support Centre.For his part, the leader was under the constraint of his Swiss, Norwegian, Dutch and Swedish donors to reachas many people as possible in the shortest possible time, since short-term therapies have become state of theart as evidence-based interventions in conflict settings (cf. Basoglu et al. 2003).As appears from this outline of the therapeutic sessions, the threads making them up are braidedinto each other by diverse times and spheres such as European expert knowledge on trauma and war, kinrelations, national sentiments about heroism, and the failure of therapeutic measures to heal something that isnot even considered to be in need of healing, namely the lives of women married to detainees imprisoned inIsrael. My aim of understanding these lives therefore begs the question of delineating the field.Like much contemporary ethnography, the bounded territory does not lend itself tocomprehending my field. An answer to this problem is George Marcus’s notion of multi-sited ethnography(Marcus 1998). A criticism of this method of multiple locales is the illusion of holism it connotes through theimplications of a ‘the more the better approach’ (cf. Strathern 2004; Holbraad and Petersen 2009). Marcus’sperspective, however, speaks to the influential work of sociologist Bruno Latour, particular his actor-networktheory (ANT) (Latour 2002), the premise in which is to follow objects and subjects under their commondenominator ‘actant’ through the contexts in which they are employed. The aim is to arrive at a description39


that does not assume a bounded whole (Latour 2002). Latour’s aim thus appears similar to Strathern’s attemptto counter the illusion of holism in social analysis. This similarity notwithstanding, Strathern’s basic premise isthe relation, whereas to Latour it is the actant. His approach has been applied in anthropology nowhere morecompetently than in Anna Tsing’s anthology on the global assemblage. There, Aiwa Ong and Stephen Collierdefine the ‘“global assemblages” as sites for the formation and reformation of what we will call, following PaulRabinow, anthropological problems. These are domains in which the forms and values of individual andcollective existence are problematised or at stake, in the sense that they are subject to technological, political,and ethical reflection and intervention’ (Ong and Collier 2005: 4). Whereas, as stated earlier, I locate mythinking about relations rather than units in line with Strathern, it is Ong and Collier’s form of delineatinganthropological problems that reverberates with how the boundaries of my field were drawn.The delineation of my field was simultaneously drawn before and during fieldwork. It came througha realisation brought home to me during three months of fieldwork in Gaza, where I was part of a researchproject under the auspice of my former employer, the Rehabilitation- and Research Centre for TortureVictims in Copenhagen. The project was a so-called impact assessment study of the experienced effects oftherapy among torture survivors living in the Gaza Strip. The fieldwork was carried out in the autumn of2005, right after Israel’s withdrawal of its settlements from the strip. 17 At the beginning of the holy month ofar-Ramadan I was standing dusty, annoyed and bothered in a research office in Gaza, overlooking theMediterranean Sea, with a paper in front of me listing twenty names. The list was a response to a request fromthe research team of which I was a part. We had asked our partners in a psychosocial organisation to provide arandomised list of torture survivors, half of them men and half of them women. What bothered me was theabsence of any female names on the list. Asking why there were only men, our Palestinian research leaderanswered with a shrug: ‘Women are not torture victims, they are the wives of the victims’ (Ronsbo and Buchforthcoming).The fact that women were and rarely are torture survivors or detainees in Israeli prisons is hardly amystery, bearing in mind the social organisation of gender with regard to activities of resistance against Israel(cf. Peteet 1991; Jean-Klein 2003). However, the language in which the research leader noted that thesewomen were wives rather than victims appeared to refer to notions of proper suffering, of acknowledgementbeing deserved, and not least service delivery. The attempt to comprehend the workings behind suchassumptions thereby became this thesis’s examination of the acknowledgement, and lack of it, of lives andforms of suffering, as well as the criteria used in evaluating affliction and life. The episode also sharpened myawareness that torture survivors, detainees, their families, researchers, Palestinian therapists and foreigndonors are all natives to field I was investigating (Ronsbo and Buch forthcoming). This is how my subjectmatter became one of studying the configurations of affect both as it is lived as a relative of someone who issimultaneously a detainee, a hero and a primary victim of violence, and as it is perceived to be lived by the othernative inhabitants of the field in which one lives. The position taken in this thesis between the personal ofintimate experience and the collective of how to understand and acknowledge such experience entailed that Inot only become involved in the therapeutic Wednesday sessions at the town hall. My field comprised just asmuch the baking hours on Fridays in the village, the Prisoners’ Support Centre’s appointments with donors,17For further reflections on this project, see Ronsbo and Buch (forthcoming).40


meetings in Europe or in the occupied territory between donors about allocations of funds to differentinterventions, and conferences in Europe, the Middle East and Canada, where the most recent knowledge ontrauma, interventions and conflict was being discussed by those considered to be the most knowledgeable intheir field.Since my focus is the intersection of wife and secondary victim, I started fieldwork through thePrisoners’ Support Centre 18 in Nablus, where I asked to meet those of their clients who were secondaryvictims. The first two months of my fieldwork were thus spent accompanying therapists on outreach sessionsand at meetings with donors and other non-governmental, psychosocial organisations in the West Bank andJerusalem. Thereafter, however, I passed most of my time with the five women of the therapeutic group andsecondarily with women in a similar though different situation of being the widows of martyrs in anothertown in the West Bank.The two sites are here termed Dar Nūra’ and Bāb aš-šams respectively. These are not the propernames of the villages because their disclosure, in combination with the personal details conveyed in this thesis,could betray the anonymity and confidentiality demanded of me by my interlocutors. Acknowledging fullythat belonging to a village, a region or a town in the occupied territory is as significant as being a Palestinian(Swedenburg 1990, Muhawi and Kanaana 1989), for ethical reasons I have omitted detailed descriptions ofthese two sites. In the cases of particular interlocutors and their lives and stories, I have included as much localdetail as confidentiality affords. This has been done with the problematic of making such representativechoices in an anthropological thesis in mind.It is important to note that both of these sites figure in the Palestinian national consciousness anddiscourse due to the roles that individuals from them have played in both Intifā a al-awwal and Intifā a al-Aqsa. Dar Nūra is known and respected all over the West Bank for the acts of resistance undertaken by myinterlocutors’ imprisoned husbands. Bāb aš-šams is recognised as a site of extreme destitution due to its trickyentanglement with a nearby Israeli town. Providing details of the statistics, inhabitants, locations and politicalaffiliations of the inhabitants is tantamount to revealing them and would allow readers to trace myinterlocutors, since stories circulate in the occupied territory and rumours can help locate a person, or at leastplant a suspicion. Whereas anonymity is often emphasised in anthropological research, there is an urgency toit in contexts of conflict and war. Betrayal is the most ill-regarded act in such places, the occupied territorybeing no exception (Kelly 2010).A key ethical concern guiding me through my research is the picture I draw of a place and a peoplewhere no stone has remained unturned. Therefore, researching, thinking and writing the thesis the way itstands is an attempt to avoid a genre that will either only be read by an audience sympathetic to the Palestiniancause, or the opposite, or by anthropologists concerned with the intersection of victimhood, war anddevelopment. Whereas the thesis speaks to the entirety of these issues, it is my hope that its contribution willgo beyond them, to the anthropology of relations, of the ordinary, and of temporality. Although suffering ismy subject matter, I have attempted to not allow it to eclipse my anthropological ambition. This also explainsthe alternative representation of context presented in Chapter III. Because my object of analysis is to18 The Prisoners’ Support Centre will be described in more detail further on in this chapter. The name of the organisationand its location are however fictive in order not to compromise the confidentiality the centre showed me.41


understand the lives of wives to detainees and how these are perceived in the occupied territory, the context ishere considered to be understandings of suffering, rather than the history and the currency of contemporaryPalestinian-Israeli relations, local politics and concerns.The metaphor of an assemblage thus appears apt in order to comprehend the relations between thediverse forums that constitute my field. With the above outline, I have described how this assemblage is bornless out of contingency than out of observing and getting to know the lives entangled in this very assemblage.Below I introduce the forums in which I primarily moved. They are not to be thought of as places but as sites.The structure reflects the quality, depth and significance of the data gathered in each of these sites.II.II Intimacy, family and relationsCapitalising intimacy denotes how I think about my material. The bulk of data were created within, amongand about intimate relationships in the families of detainees, and secondarily in the families of martyrs.Intimate relationships in families were therefore a primary site of study, rather than, say, a village, a town or aparticular place. These relationships were, however, located above all in the realm of the domestic, understoodas where the personal, the collective and the political intersect (Goodfellow and Mulla 2008). In this way I amanalytically dismantling the classic separation of the domestic and the public spheres (cf. Nelson 1974). Thevillage or town in which these families live naturally constituted sites too, not as something in themselves butas sites in which intimate relationships unfolded. Rendering the domestic a primary sphere of inquirywas caused by my concern with the experiences of living a life related to a Palestinian hero. My research waspushed further into the realm of the intimate through my way of introducing this study to potentialinterlocutors. I stated repeatedly to all of them that I was not interested in politics, neither local nor nationalpolitics, and particularly not the politics that had put their husbands in prison. It was made clear that myinterest was in how the women experienced the situation of living with an incarcerated husband, son or father.This clarification paved the way for conversations and relationships where my interlocutors did not need toworry about the existence of a hidden agenda whereby they would find themselves disclosing whether theirhusbands were associated with what Israel and the international community deem to be terroristorganisations. Naturally, I got to know these political affiliations: either the women told me themselves, or itwas public knowledge, rumoured or told to me by someone else. Moreover, I knew how to discern the signsfrom green and yellow flags, how the women spoke about the current government, as well as slang words forparticular political groups. What was most important for my interlocutors was that it did not have my interestand that I sincerely wanted to know about their lives as women.Intimate relations unfolded in several locales, but primarily in the domestic sphere of the women’shomes. This was where we could meet and talk free of curious and hostile gazes. It was also where most ofthem spend their days and nights, since only two out of the twelve women had a paid job outside the home atthe time of my fieldwork of six months of 2007 and three months in 2008, followed by a shorter visit in2009.Stating that the relationship between intimacy and the domestic sphere is where I located myselfnecessitates a clarification: the domestic is not necessarily private, nor is intimacy always connoted by thepositive. Following Das, Leonard and Ellen, I understand the domestic as ‘somehow always implicated in the42


non-domestic – be that the domain of the politico-jural, the idea of the non-domesticated wilderness, or asinflected by affects that circulate in the wider politico-jural domain’ (Das, Ellen and Leonard 2008: 351). Ialso take sphere of the domestic as the site per se where betrayals of relations and of oneself can take place inthe wake of the violence that transgresses the porous boundary between the domestic and its outside (Das2007: 11).Intimacy presented itself during my fieldwork in the shape of three intersecting modalities: first asintimate conversations, secondly as fieldwork in the realm of the intimate sphere of the domestic, and thirdlyas research about intimacy. Below I will describe these three modalities, as well as introduce the interlocutorswho figure most in this thesis.I did not have the same relationships with all the interlocutors, but intimacy figured at these threelevels at different times and with varying frequency and intensity in all of them. Since the study is not aboutfamilies as such but emphasises how affect configures intimate relations, I will present the relationships andfamilies according to the modality of intimacy to which my connection with them belonged.II.III Intimate ConversationsExcept for the group of five women who participated in the described group therapy, I met all myinterlocutors initially accompanied by their therapist from either the Prisoners’ Support Centre’s headquartersin Nablus or the branch office in Bāb aš-šams. This mode of encountering my interlocutors influenced myrelationships with them. First, this introduction meant that the therapist as both a confidential woman and afellow Palestinian guaranteed my trustworthiness. This proved invaluable, especially with regard to thefamilies of detainees: betrayal, treason and rumours are real and experienced elements of their everyday andpart of what has led to their husbands being detained (cf. Tobias Kelly 2010). How I was introduced thusfacilitated my access remarkably. Secondly, choosing a therapeutic organisation rather than a detainee’s club asa point of access confirmed to the women that it was their own experiences, rather than those of their men,that interested me. It expressed to them that they were not a gateway to knowing about the events, sufferingsor lives of their husbands: it was the women in relation to their absent husbands that was my concern. Howmy way of entering the field influenced my relations to my interlocutors is a point I pondered before, duringand after fieldwork. One implication of this methodological choice is that I confirmed the classification of thewomen as secondary victims and their husbands as primary victims, which was a premise of the interventionsof the Prisoners’ Support Centre. Since my aim was to study the interstices of the categorisation of atherapeutic subject as a secondary victim and the lives lived by the women being categorised as such, Iconsider my point of entry to have been appropriate. There is no doubt, though, that the women’s knowledgeof my affiliation with the Prisoners’ Support Centre influenced their answers as to what the therapeuticintervention had meant for them. This became prominent early on in my fieldwork and in the relationshipsthat were not particularly close.I have had conversations with forty-two women who were either married to detainees, the widowsof martyrs or the mothers of either detainees or martyrs. Most of them I only met once, yet among themtwelve women stand out. Seven of them were married to a detainee, and five were the widows of a martyr. Theethnography of these women forms the backbone of the thesis, based on our repeated meetings. I met all of43


them at least three times individually and once in the company of their mother, mother-in-law, sisters orsisters-in-law respectively and at times collectively. Seven of these twelve are women whom I visited regularlywith or without the intention of conducting a formal interview. This is why I refer to my data as conversations.I had earlier constructed an interview guide concerning the women’s life stories, but after our first encounter Ilet the conversations follow the emotional concerns of the women themselves. Part of my dialogue with theseven women included my giving them a diary to write down their thoughts, feelings or anything that sprangto their minds. I asked them to fill it in for a period of a week, after which I would read it too. 19 However, itwas also made clear to the women that if they did not feel like writing or showing me their writings that wasfine by me. Four of the women returned their diaries to me, their content being discussed mainly in ChapterVIII.As for the thirty women who constitute only a peripheral part of my ethnographic material,conversations with them have provided me with knowledge about nationalist rhetoric in the nexus of thepersonal and the collective. At the time I thought of those conversations as superficial because they did notappear to express at least some state of mind of the interlocutors. In hindsight they taught me about theimpossible wish to separate the personal from the political in the occupied territory. I return to this theme inthe section adressing national sentiments.With five of the seven women, I had the most intimate conversations and relationships thatdeveloped over time. These five were Amina, Aisha, Fatemeh, Nadia and Lama. Amina, Aisha and Fatemehformed part of the group for detainees’ wives and all live in Dar Nūra. Nadia and Lama are from the outskirtsof Bāb aš-šams. Nadia is the widow of a martyr and currently married to a detainee, whereas Lama is a widowof a martyr. My relationships with Nadia, Lama and less so Fatemeh centred around our conversations, andhowever close we came through words, I did not at any point form part of their everyday. I joined Fatemeh ona visit to her husband in prison, yet I did not hang around her home. In the case of all the seven women, Iaccompanied them on visits to their female relatives and also received guests together with them in theirhomes. Through such social activities, I had the opportunity to observe and participate when the womenengaged in social forums and talked about topics similar to those I spoke with the women about individuallyor aided by the interpretation of either of my assistants, Rawan or Mayy. It was through these changingrelationships with the wives of the detainees that I became aware of the configuration, inclusion and exclusionof certain forms of affect regarding the women’s statuses and experiences of being related to a detainee. Iconsider my interaction through words and acts with these seven women to be the spine of my ethnography.19 The inspiration for conducting diary studies rested on my participation in the research Programme ‘The PoliticalEconomies of Victimhood’. The programme is based at the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for torture victimsin Copenhagen, Denmark, and is led by Dr Henrik Rønsbo and Dr Steffen Jensen. Its focus is the investigation ofconfigurations of victimhood between human beings, institutions and states in Guatemala, Columbia, South Africa,Zimbabwe and the occupied territory. Whereas other participating projects were more closely knitted togetherand followed a common methodology, this project has centred entirely on ethnography as its method and thus hasbeen only peripherally linked to the overall programme. For instance, the other participants in the programmemade structured diary studies, where they asked interlocutors to report on health-related issues throughout a period of two weeks, with the researcher visiting every third day in order to discuss the writings. Since my subjectmatter was personal feelings, I considered that this manner of ‘controlling’ the women’s writings would distort theintention of allowing them express their thoughts and feelings. The accommodation of my project into the programmeanyway has nevertheless benefited my reflections on my research significantly.44


I am hesitant with regard to how close it is possible for a stranger to become, and at that a strangerwith very basic Arabic and utterly different life circumstances. Nevertheless some of my conversations with thewomen contain words that are expressed either for the first time or in a mode different from how they areexpressed themselves in other forums. As already stated, I do not agree with the argument that there is aprivate language. Rather, I follow Das in her suggestion that sometimes words gesture towards rather thanexpress experiences around which there is an expressive fence (Das 2007: 11). This, she states, can be thoughtof in terms of an inner, but not a private language (ibid.). On this premise I assume that the words throughwhich we express ourselves are result of our relation to the other. The fact that I was a stranger, Western andunmarried, yet living with a partner meant that I could not judge the women morally on the basis of thecriteria they were normally assessed by. Therefore I was allowed to ask questions that only but not necessarilysisters can ask. These were questions that the women could answer because I was not someone who couldbetray them. However, they had to trust that I would not betray them, not only to the Israelis, but also to theirfamilies, their families-in-law and the community of the village. This is why I have concealed not only theirtrue names, but also the name of their villages and the circumstances under which their husbands came to bedetained in Israel.II.IV Participatory IntimacyAmina, her sister Layla and Aisha, as well as the kin network around them, are those women among thedetainees’ families with whom I had and still have the closest relationships. I have visited them since myfieldwork, during and after which they have received me in their homes together with my partner with anamount of care and love that is outstanding, considering the risk they run by inviting a foreign, unmarriedman into their homes, overseen by all their neighbours. Among my interlocutors, it is they whose company Iseek upon returning to the occupied territory and with whom I stay in email and text message contact.I consider these relationships to be based on mutuality, differences at every thinkable level aside.Amina, the women among all of them with the least education, welcomed me wholeheartedly into her homeafter we had first spoken together. On this occasion she commented on the character of our conversation,which referred to topics she spoke about with many people, but, she said, in a different way. I accepted herwelcome and used her house as a base during the days and nights I spent in Dar Nūra. This was the place towhich I returned and where her unmarried sister Layla, their mother and their brother, as well as Amina’sthree children welcomed me. They never made anything special out of my presence, yet we enjoyed eachother’s company, being it baking together under the auspices of Amina’s and Layla’s strict eyes, sharing a meal,watching old Indian action movies before bedtime or walking through the village in the cool evenings.Aisha, a highly educated, politically active, professional woman and I got to know each other slowlythrough both conversations and doing things together. On our first encounters she spoke entirely in thelanguage of nationalist rhetoric. It was only over time and by sharing hours in her home, at her workplace andin her car together her two children that she expressed the paradoxes intrinsic to her situation. For shorterperiods I was part of the rhythm of Aisha’s everyday by coming to her office a couple of hours before she lefther job, reading or talking with her and other staff members there. We then drove home, cooked lunch for thechildren, and visited friends, family and family-in-law before she either dropped me off at Amina’s house or45


drove me to Birzeit, from where I took as-servīs (minibus) to Ramallah or Jerusalem. For both Amina andAisha, being intimate with them of course occurred at the level of language, in the use of words that they didnot share with either their kin or their children. Being with the women, however, meant being with theirfamilies. It was only on particular, orchestrated occasions that we could speak differently about their lives asdetainees’ wives. Most of the time the women were together with their children, female kin and affinalrelations, which is why I refer to the families of detainees as a significant part of my research foci. This bringshome an otherwise abstract claim, namely that these women are relational human beings.Doing research in and on intimate relations occurred over time. For instance, I did not sleep in thehouses of neither Amina nor Aisha until my return to the occupied territory in early 2008. It was thus in mysecond and third stays in the area that my relations to these two women in particular were cemented. Mycontinuous returns to the occupied territory reassured them about my sincerity and difference from thestream of journalists eager for a juicy story of suffering. Whereas my return to stay with these families broughta degree of closeness into our relationship, it also caused something I had feared, namely that being related toparticular families closes off the possibility of the same degree of confidentiality in other homes of the village.Knowing my increasingly close relationships with Aisha, Amina and their families, the three other women inDar Nūra started weighing their words regarding their emotions and family relations as compared to before.However, I had several opportunities to demonstrate that they could trust me. For instance, I spoke with theirmothers-in-law, with whom some of the women had a severely strained relationship, without the womenthemselves feeling afterwards that I had disclosed the personal knowledge about their lives and emotions theyhad told me about. Despite the knowledge that they could trust me, my closer relationship with Amina andAisha engendered a degree of suspicion in my relationships with the other women in the group. This serves toquestion the assumption that a single household is the way per se to create the best ethnography.Above I have referred to different modalities of intimacy shared with the women involved in myresearch. Notwithstanding, my engagement with every single one of them has unfolded around the topic ofintimate relationships: with their husbands in prison, their children, their parents and sisters, and theirfamilies-in-law. Since all of these relationships unfold in the domestic sphere, in either their own or someoneelse’s home, the intersection of domesticality and intimacy has been my primary field.II.V National SentimentsThe basis on which I have researched what it means to be related to a political detainee consists of thenarratives of suffering and heroism, of victimhood and sacrifice, that circulate in the occupied territory. InChapter III I term the assemblage of such narratives and discourse the standing language of knowing sufferingin the occupied territory. This standing language is made up of both the Palestinian meta-narrative of sufferingand what I have termed global psychological discourse on suffering understood as trauma. Below I outline thecontexts and content of the former constituent of the standing language, namely the Palestinian metanarrativeof suffering. Coming, however, from a background of working with torture survivors and theirfamilies, I initially conceived of this study as having roots in an international, psychologically inspireddiscourse. During my total of four months stay in the Gaza strip in 2004 and 2005, however, I learned theinadequacy of the term ‘torture survivor’ in the occupied territory, where the term torture survivors is used46


about people who have been imprisoned either in Israel or by the Palestinian Authority. In the occupiedterritory, then, torture survivors do not necessarily have experiences with torture as defined in the UNconvention against torture 20 (UN 1994). Nonetheless, even if this group of people have had experiences oftorture as defined by the convention, they are never called torture survivors, but instead, al-asra’ (thedetainees). It is the wives of these men that are the centre of gravity in this thesis. Al-asra’ does not includemen who have been detained for criminal activities. With 700,000 Palestinians having been incarcerated inIsrael since 1967 (Passia 2008: 331), al-asra’ connotes the Palestinian detainee (Nashif 2008). According tothe Israeli organisation Btselem, 6,891 Palestinians were incarcerated in Israeli prisons 21 in November 2009(Btselem 2009). Together with aš-šuhada’, those who have lost their lives in the conflict between Israel and thePalestinians, al-asra’ are at the heart of Palestinian narratives of suffering, victimhood and heroism describedthoroughly by Allen (2007), Nashif (2008) and Khalili (2007). The majority of both aš-šuhada’ and al-asra’are men. In 2007 there were 104 female detainees in Israeli prisons, and among the 4,791 casualties sustainedbetween September 2000 and December 2008, 22 142 were female (Passia 2008: 331). The male connotationof both heroism and victimhood thus stands out clearly (cf. Massad 1995).In this thesis, these men figure entirely through their discursive significance and as absent others inthe lives of my interlocutors. There are several reasons for this methodological and analytical choice. Aboveall, since šuhada’ are dead and asra’ incarcerated, these men were simply not available for research. However, inthe case of two of my interlocutors, Fatemeh and Weeam, their husbands were released during two differentexchanges of detainees between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 2008. Nonetheless I did not speak toeither of them. Leaving their stories aside relates to my wish to be loyal to how I framed my research to thedetainees’ wives, namely that I did not consider the latter to be a gateway to the detainees’ stories, nor did Iregard the lives and whereabouts of their men as more interesting than those of the women. The fact that aššuhada’and al-asra’ have such prominent spaces in local registers of acknowledgement gives this statement asignificance that I did not wish to compromise. Furthermore, the women had showed me confidentiality andtrust by expressing emotions regarding their incarcerated husbands that were not to be passed on to the exdetaineesthemselves. Thirdly, the absence of actual detainees in this thesis relates to my professionalbackground. Between 2004 and 2006 I conducted research with Arab torture survivors in Denmark and inthe Gaza Strip under the auspices of the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT) inCopenhagen, Denmark. The knowledge generated through this research informs my attempt to lookelsewhere than to the detainee himself to learn about the affect that surrounds the families ofdetainees.I studied the registers of affect around the heroes and victims of violence through conversationswith people, among them the thirty conversations undertaken with the mothers, sisters, wives and families-inlawof detainees and martyrs. 23 I think of these stories, their form and content as expressions of the Palestinian20Cf. http://www.hrweb.org/legal/cat.html21http://www.btselem.org/english/statistics/Detainees_and_Detainees.asp#Notes22http://www.btselem.org/english/Statistics/Casualties.asp23These conversations do not include the conversations I had with my key interlocutors.47


meta-narrative, rather than as representations of personal stories of suffering (cf. Buch 2009). This is due to theuniformity of such stories in how they reverberate over one or more events of spectacular violence that arebraided into the story of al-Nakba, the 1948 forced displacement of more than 700,000 Palestinians fromwhat is now the state of Israel (cf. Abu-Lughod and Sa’adi 2007). In many instances of recounting such storiesthey end with their narrator exclaiming ‘Šu mn-sawwi’ (what can we do?), referring to the ordinary presenceof violence, oppression and discrimination as being a part of their lives rather than external tothem.In her article about the Palestinian discourse of suffering as a politics of immediation (Allen 2009),Allen argues that narratives are similar across personal accounts to the stories and ways of branding of NGOsin the occupied territory. According to Allen, ‘the politics of immediation’ refers to a discourse centred onaffect, human rights and visualisation that has as its aim to call the attention of a Western audience to theplight of the Palestinians (Allen 2009: 162). There are clear resonances between the politics of immediationand my ethnographic material, resonances that reverberate across the narratives I encountered throughinterviews, meetings and informal conversations with the leaders and employees of thirty-three Palestinianand internationally related NGOs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These NGOs include primarily thoseadopting a psychosocial outlook in addressing the families of martyrs and detainees, detainee’s clubs, women’sorganisations and, for instance, the Ministry of Ex-Detainees and Detainee’s Affairs, as well as their nowdebilitated department for rehabilitating ex-detainees. Bearing in mind the nature and scope of theseorganisations, it is not surprising that the politics of immediation permeates them. Had I chosen NGOs from,say, agricultural organisations, the politics of immediation would most likely have been less present in the waythe organisations present themselves toward their audiences. Based on my fieldwork, however, it appears thatAllen has discovered a particular discursive moment in the occupied territory that cuts across distinct spheresof formal and informal expressions of suffering.Daily life at the Prisoners’ Support Centre offered instances where national discourses on sufferingand acknowledgement thereof were negotiated, confirmed and contested, not only as professional discourse,but at the intersection of employees’ personal trajectories of violence, political affiliation and concerns aboutattracting or scaring away donors. The latter point involved a standing discussion as to whether theorganisation should comply with a statement issued by the umbrella association, the Palestinian NGOnetwork (PNGO). The statement reads that no PNGOs members are allowed to sign the US-enforced clausethat they are not working with ‘terrorist organisations’ such as al-Jabha Al-Sha’biyya li-Tahrir Filstan (thePopular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islammiyya (the IslamicResistance Movement) – in short, Hamas. Naturally the employees were not agreed over this issue. Similarly,the everyday at the office was coloured by the way in which a conflict is always local. For instance, all publicdemonstrations are held in the central square of the town, and employees were always debating whether theyshould participate or keep up their work at the centre on the basis of which cause was deemed the worthiest.The office being located centrally, parades commemorating martyrs often went by, causing the employees torun towards the windows in order to photograph the parades with their mobile phones.In Denmark, activism on the part of the Palestinians has taken place largely within the same forumsfor many years, for instance, through the Palestine Friendship Association and the Human Rights March48


Women’s organisation. Although I am not involved in activism, I met people in these circles occasionallyduring my fieldwork. Moreover, at a tribunal organised by Human Rights March in Copenhagen in 2008, thehead of the clinical department at the Prisoners’ Support Centre participated alongside the Director of theMandela Institute for Human Rights Palestine, whom I knew from meetings with her and the planningcommittee of a conference on detainees held in Ramallah in November 2008. Personally my partner has beenworking with issues related to the occupied territory for Danish as well as Palestinian NGOs since 2002. Sincehe is the head of the council of the Danish House in Palestine (DHIP), we naturally discuss current politicaldevelopments in the area at home and with people around the DHIP in Denmark and in the occupiedterritory.What I have termed the Palestinian meta-narrative of suffering is clearly not a static discourse. It is adiscourse that evolves around the Palestinians as a people that is suffering from the violence brought about bythe Israeli occupation. This meta-narrative is less a stale rhetoric of NGOs than a narrative made and remadethrough questions such as how one’s journey to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv took place, did they (theIsraelis) harass you? And, how about the trip from Ramallah to Hebron, did they make you wait at thecheckpoints? This meta-narrative is immanent in the slight shake of the head made by the pharmacist inresponding to my question: was it possible to buy the Palestinian Dead Sea products ‘Vitalité’ at pharmaciesin Jerusalem? ‘Mamnouh’ (forbidden), the tired pharmacist said. The Palestinian meta-narrative also figured inhow I spoke and was confronted with questions about my research by my assistants, their families and friends,as well as in discussions over the legitimacy of violent resistance with my landlady in Jerusalem, whoseconstant quarrels with the Israeli Jerusalem Municipality over her rights to her old Arab villa occupied manynights of discussions, cigarettes and cups of Nescafe. The summer I arrived, her balcony was a place where al-Intifā a al-awwal film-makers, people from the Palestinian Diaspora and international aid workers gatheredand discussed the currency of the conflict, looking out over the Mount of Olives.It is the living assemblage of these multiple forums and people whose ways of expressing how theyimagine the conflict and its tentacles that I term the Palestinian meta-narrative of suffering. By being part ofthese forums, I participate in co-creating, questioning and criticising this discourse in the occupied territory,abroad and at home. No one has in my understanding characterised that discourse and its effects morepainstakingly than a friend of mine, a Palestinian US-trained social worker. She dryly termed it ‘the unhealthycrutch of heroism’.II.VI Suffering as TraumaThe other constituent of the standing language, namely global psychological discourse that frames the plightof the Palestinians through the term ‘trauma’, is as territorially unbounded as are intimacy and nationalsentiments. My entry point to the occupied territory was through my employment at the RCT inCopenhagen, Denmark. In 2004 I was offered a travel stipend to visit a partner organisation, namely the GazaCommunity Mental Health Programme in Gaza. It is through this encounter that I was first acquainted withthe discourse of suffering as trauma in the occupied territory (Afana, Pedersen, Ronsbo, Kirmayer in press).Around the turn of this century, much scholarly debate took place regarding the value of psychiatric diagnosesin conflict areas. Such debates fell under the term ‘medicalisation critique’, spearheaded by, for instance, the49


psychiatrists Derek Summerfield (1999) and Patrick Bracken (2002) and the scholar Vanessa Pupavac (2001).These debates were familiar to the therapists and researchers I encountered in Gaza in 2004. Nonetheless,diagnosing, monitoring and researching suffering in the occupied territory occurred through notions oftrauma, not least through diagnoses of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This circulation of trauma as a way ofunderstanding suffering existed then and now alongside a comment made by a therapist after telling me whysomeone whose house in Gaza had been demolished a week ago was suffering from Post Traumatic StressDisorder. The therapist stated, ‘There is no “post” in Gaza’. As such he pinpointed this thesis’s concern withsuffering based on a non-linear temporality. The therapist’s realisation is reminiscent of claims I have sincecome across in interventions, organisations and among individual therapists. Meanwhile this recognitionexists in parallel with the proliferation of the notion of trauma as the way in which the suffering ofPalestinians is presented to the outside world. 24 A point to be illuminated in the thesis is that this notionmight have been new to Palestinian therapists twenty years ago, yet contemporaneously the proliferation oftrauma and psychiatry occurs just as much through Palestinian actors in the field of psychosocial interventionsas through international experts, the demands of donors and scientific articles.In attempting to trace the notion of trauma, I sought out international country representatives andprominent donors and NGOs in this field in order to understand how they acquired their ideas regardingwhich psychosocial and rehabilitative projects were good and should be sustained and which should bedeemed unsuccessful. I had allocated between four and five months to this part of the fieldwork, yet it spreadout from 2006 to 2008, most intensively between May 2008 and August 2008 and then again in November2008. Hardly surprisingly, these international agents said that they look to each other, to which experts theother donors were using to teach courses in the occupied territory, as well as familiarising themselves withwhich organisations have good reputations in donor circles.Being related to the RCT throughout my study and after my fieldwork as a consultant, 25 inSeptember 2007 I was invited to participate in a donors’ consortium meeting in Jerusalem regarding one ofRCT’s partners, a psychosocial organisation in the occupied territory. The donors were Swiss, Swedish,Danish, and Dutch, and during the discussions of the particular partner’s delivery, three Scandinavianpsychiatrists often had the last say. Due to the respect given to their disciplinary backgrounds and not leasttheir longstanding relationships as simultaneously experts and friends with the leader of this partner, theirwords had a weight that money, budgets and monitoring did not have. Fassin and Rechtman (2009) call the24In The Terrorist in Search of Humanity: Militant Islam and Global Politics, the historian Faisal Devji argues that therhetoric of al-Qaeda towards its global audience is moulded by so-called western styles of communicating suffering,rather than, as commonly assumed, by adhering to an immanent religious, Islamist logic (Devji 2008).25During my presence in the occupied territory, and due to my interviews with international donors in the field ofpsychosocial organisations, I was often asked to act as either a formal or informal consultant and in some instancesas an informer on the Detainees’ Support Centre. My reply to such inquiries was that I could not compromise myconfidentiality with the Centre during my PhD research, and thus I did not provide the information they wanted,which was of an evaluative character. I did, however, engage in discussions with them about appropriate interventions,the ways in which partner relationships work and the structure of aid. The Detainees Support Centre knewthat I had interviewed all their donors, and there is no doubt that the management had the feeling that I knew toomuch about the Centre, regardless of my reassurances of confidentiality. I do, however, feel that I have protectedtheir confidences as much as I have protected those of the women I spoke to, as well as those of the big internationalagencies. As figures throughout the thesis, however, rumour and suspicion are enough to create tensions in arelationship.50


intersection of psychiatry and humanitarianism ‘humanitarian psychiatry’, a phrase they use to allude to adifference between this form of psychiatry, used in so-called conflict areas across the world, and clinicalpsychiatry. I assume, though, that this difference might be equivocal, due to how new methods of interventionflourish in the field of psychosocial intervention in the occupied territory. Against this background, I followedhumanitarian psychiatry to the International Rehabilitation Council’s annual symposia in Berlin in 2006 andto the conference ‘Healing Wounds – Digging Up Wounds’ in Istanbul in December 2007. Both eventsincluded all the partners in the international, anti-torture rehabilitation movement, the focus beingdiscussions of trauma in relation to war and violent conflict. I further followed clinical psychiatry to aconference of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, held in London in June 2008, and thespecial event of the European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies in May that year. Additionally Iparticipated in the annual conference of McGill University’s Advanced Institute of Cultural Psychiatry inMontreal in 2008, where the topic was Peace, Conflict, and Reconciliation: Contributions of CulturalPsychiatry. The three latter events were hosted by some of the most acknowledged scientists within the fieldsof trauma and cultural psychiatry.There is no doubt that differences in audience, scope and content presented themselves in the fiveconferences. However, I prefer to dwell on the resonances between them. One point of resonance was that thePalestinian-Israeli conflict was seen as particularly tragic and unsolvable whenever it was the topic of apresentation, an informal conversation or a research study. Since my research focuses on gender, violence andthe acknowledgement of suffering, I was particularly interested to note the extent to which gender was indeedmainstreamed into the scholarly discussions. This appeared in debates of how women globally display moreand higher scores in symptoms of PTSD when using internationally recognised monitoring instruments,despite the fact that women in general are less exposed to traumatic events than are men (Helweg-Larsen andKastrup 2007). The findings in this field, however, remain inconclusive, including research done in and of theoccupied territory (personal communication from psychiatrist Raija Lena Punamäki 2008). In tracing thenexus of gender and psychosocial interventions, I met with a longstanding Swiss feminist organisation andrepresentatives of the United Nations Relief and Work Association and the United Nations Voluntary Fundfor Torture Victims in Switzerland in order to speak with them about psychosocial interventions as answers tothe challenges presented by gender and long-term conflict in the occupied territory. I also participated in aconference arranged by the Swiss feminist organisation where the topic was psychosocial organisations in theMiddle East. The speakers included the leaders of Palestinian psychosocial organisations, Westernpsychologists and Moroccan NGOs.One issue kept reappearing throughout my investigations into the discourse of suffering as trauma:it seemed to lack both a language and a means of intervention to address the everyday concerns of its targetgroups. With unemployment rates of 23.2 % in 2007 (Passia 2008; 351) and the absence of a male provider,the daily household economy was a cause of distress for the families of both martyrs and detainees. However,on the basis of a household survey conducted in 2008 with eighty families of martyrs and detainees, it wasclear that, no matter how little actual income the families informed us about, whether from the men’s politicalorganisations, the PA or kin, the families got by. My assistant Rawan carried out a household survey, andalthough she knew many of the families from our involvement with them, she noted that they did not disclose51


the actual amount of money available to them in sustaining their livelihoods. Even though she highlighted theanonymity of the interview situation and her knowledge that they had more money available for them thanthey admitted, this did not prevent respondents under-reporting. The value of the survey in terms ofhouseholds’ actual incomes and monetary coping strategies is thus limited. Nonetheless, the process of doingthe survey shows how victimhood is perceived to be acknowledged: by being poor and claiming to be living inpoverty, Palestinians become visible to one of the poverty-alleviating organisations that are part of the NGOlandscape in the occupied territory. 26Each of these field sites contains significant knowledge about the theme of this thesis. In theoutline, however, I have emphasised their relative value with regard to my concern with the nexus of suffering,enduring conflict and gender in the occupied territory. Whereas many of the actors in this part of my fieldassemblage are Western, their engagement with the occupied territory make them immanent to theintersection of knowledge, funding, therapeutic practice and personal relationships in the everyday lives ofPalestinians (cf. Allen 2009).II.VII The Ghost of GazaThis research project was supposed to take place in the Gaza Strip rather than the West Bank. During thespring of 2007, I made arrangements with the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme to use theirpremises in Gaza City as a base from which to meet those of their clients who could be categorised assecondary victims. Simultaneously, however, tensions arose in Gaza in the wake of Hamas’s unexpected victoryover Fata in the elections in 2006, leading to the installation of a unity government in March 2007. By June2007 tensions had escalated in what is often described as a coup by Hamas to take over Fata ’s premises inGaza. In contrast, this has also been represented as a US-financed and engineered attempt to de-legitimiseHamas by supplying Fata with weapons and military training. After weeks of fighting and a period ofincreased insecurity in Gaza, the situation stabilised with two governments: the de facto government ofHamas ruling in the new ‘Green and Clean’ Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority led by Fata governing theWest Bank.The occurrence of these events at the time I was about to board the plane made me reconsider mychoice to carry out fieldwork in Gaza. On former occasions I had stayed with employees of the GazaCommunity Mental Health Programme and had used the organisation’s means of transport, rarely movingaround on my own. With heightened security risks and kidnappings being on the increase, I decided to movemy fieldwork to the West Bank. As a consequence of the escalating tensions throughout the spring of 2007, Ihad made contact with the Prisoners’ Support Centre with the aim of establishing a secondary research site.Leaving behind the idea of Gaza as a focal field was somewhat traumatic due to my prior knowledge of boththe people and the infrastructure in Gaza. Also, I had a feeling that I was not fulfilling my obligation to stay intouch with an otherwise increasingly armoured Gaza.Embarking on fieldwork in the West Bank in July 2007 nonetheless proved less difficult than I had26These data constitute some of my obligations to the ‘Political Economy of Victimhood’ research programme thatI have been related to throughout the process.52


envisaged. I arranged rather hastily to live in East Jerusalem in a house I shared with my landlady, a ChristianPalestinian. I had not imagined that this place would remain my research base, together with an apartment inRamallah. However, for reasons of connections to the sphere of international donors, security, personalconcerns and a working space, I did keep the place and slept there when I was not in Dar Nūra or Ramallah atnight. My landlady, a friend, is well connected in the Palestinian NGO sector in both Jerusalem andRamallah, as well as with the international agencies present in Jerusalem. What I had thought would bedifficult proved fairly easy, and I embarked on participant observation and exploratory interviews under theauspices of the Prisoners’ Support Centre two days after my arrival.Gaza, however, hovered over the research as more than just an infatuation with a particular field. Inthe occupied territory Gaza is omnipresent, despite being territorially severed from the West Bank (Appendix1, Map). Gaza presents itself as a constant bad conscience in the sense that some Palestinians were displaced toGaza first in 1948, and then because of its closure following al-Intifā a al-Aqsa, which entailed the totalseparation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (Appendix I). Gazans are not allowed to go to the West Bankand West Bank Palestinians cannot go to Gaza unless they work for one of the ‘neutral’ organisations such asthe Red Cross or a UN agency. In addition, Gaza was a standing reminder that, no matter how bad thesituation was in the West Bank, in Gaza it was and is always worse.This reminder became apparent during the Israeli incursion into Gaza at the beginning of March2008, when approximately one hundred Palestinians were killed. In Ramallah and East Jerusalem shops closedand people remained in front of their televisions, exchanging emails and picture messages of spectacularfatalities and the latest death tolls. The political parties arranged demonstrations at Sā at Manāra (ManaraSquare) in Ramallah, engendering public outrage and suspicion that the parties were not totally in solidaritywith those suffering in Gaza. I joined Rawan in a demonstration one night in Ramallah, together with a smallcrowd of Ramallah literati, Palestinian intelligentsia as well as foreign activists, researchers and aid workers.Palestinian Legislative Council member Mustafa Barghouti spoke to the crowd, and the only attempt toundermine the demonstration occurred when it reached Arafat’s mausoleum at the Muqata, the President’sheadquarters. Here Fata politicians scolded Hamas for their irresponsible acts that had caused Israel toemploy collective punishment in Gaza. Then the demonstration dispersed.The next day, another demonstration clashed with an invitation to lunch at Weeam’s house in DarNūra. Rawan and I discussed what to do. What was most important: to show solidarity with the people inGaza, or to visit someone going through a rough patch at the same time? We decided to visit Weeam, becauseI insisted. Rawan said afterwards that it felt right not to let her down, but that she had not agreed on ourgoing beforehand. The episode serves as a reminder that the acknowledgement of suffering goes hand in handwith spectral violence and outrageous events, something Weeam and my other interlocutors could not offerus.Ethnography of Suffering II.VIIIHow should suffering be studied in the wake of ongoing conflict? As already noted, since the 1990santhropology has emphasised subjective experiences of suffering ( Jackson 2002; Daniel 1997). Moreover thethree volumes of social suffering by Kleinman, Das, Lock and Ramphele (1997; 2000; 2007) arguably place53


the formative agenda for studies of suffering at the nexus of structural conditions and subjective lives inanthropology.My study speaks to this line of inquiry, yet it is Das’s approach, where suffering, violence, intimacyand institutions are interwoven in the everyday, that has informed how I have conceptualised my field (Das2000; 2007; 2008). Situating my inquiry between personal experience and Palestinian and global notions ofaffliction is an attempt to understand how suffering is acknowledged in the occupied territory and accordingto which criteria. The position of my enquiry on the edge of the permeable boundaries between personal andcollective formations of suffering is an attempt not to slip into a normative study that calls for the recognitionof new categories of victims. My aim is to describe the lives and the ideas of life, suffering andacknowledgement that make up my field assemblage. In doing so, I hope I have not taken a definite stand thatlies beneath many scholarly studies in and of the occupied territory, portraying the Palestinians as either thevictims of the original victims or as free agents engaged in resistance in each and all of their ordinarypractices.Avoiding normative evaluations when studying the occupied territory nonetheless remains anillusion. As the Middle East scholar Sara Roy suggests:every individual involved with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, to whatever extent, has a position.Any to neutrality; or for that matter objectivity, is in my experience nothing more than calculatedindifference. In any case, the concern should not be with the position but with how it was formed,how it evolved, and on what it is based. (Roy 2007: 58)With these words, Roy expresses my approach to the normativity of studying the effects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One interlocutor said to me that life in East Jerusalem and in Israel as a Palestinian is notpossible without betrayal. To me, it is just as impossible in the West Bank. When buying food or otherconsumer goods, Israeli products will be on the shelves in front of you. My assistants were outraged when, inthe homes of detainees and martyrs, we were served Israeli juices, fruit, crackers and crisps. Like ethicalconsumption globally, choice in the West Bank is a privilege that is only bestowed on a few. These slipperymoral grounds are woven into the texture of the everyday for Palestinians, Israelis and internationals living inthe area. In the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, you are never entirely certain of the origins of a taxi-driver,nor are you necessarily sure about the sympathies or origins of that friendly face in the crowd, in the shop or ata dinner party.I.IX The Limits of LanguageMy Syrian dialect Arabic, the Palestinian vernacular, is basic. In 2004 I followed a course in the Egyptiandialect in Copenhagen, and in 2004/2005 I attended a course in Arabic Propaedeutics at the University ofCopenhagen. During my fieldwork I attended classes at Jamiat al-Quds (al-Quds University) in the spokenPalestinian dialect. Whilst emphasising the spoken vernacular, I can also read and with some effort writemodern standard Arabic. Since finishing my fieldwork, I have practised Arabic bi-weekly with a nativePalestinian and MA in Arabic, Ms Christina Copty. However, my Arabic was never good enough. Through54


speaking it daily I improved, and towards the end of my fieldwork I hardly needed translation from myassistants in conversations and interactions with my interlocutors. During most conversations and interviews,one of my two field assistants was present in case I could neither understand nor pose a question correctly tomy interlocutors. When staying in Dar Nūra, I had no English speakers nearby, which over time did notpresent particular problems.Rawan and Mayy are Palestinian women in their early twenties with BAs in French and Music, andin Engineering, respectively. My use of two assistants is due to the restraints on mobility for Palestinians in theWest Bank (cf. Kelly 2006; 2007). For instance, it would take Rawan two and a half hours to get to Bāb aššams,whereas Dar Nūra was but a ten-minute servis ride away for her. Since the detainees’ wives from DarNūra are the spine of my ethnography, Rawan has been the assistant most involved with this project. The tasksundertaken by Mayy were limited to arranging visits to the women of Bāb aš-šams, interpreting during theinterviews, and the lesser tasks of researching newspaper articles and artistic expressions regarding thedetainees and their families. Rawan and Mayy translated the interviews from Arabic to English. Whereasworking with my subject matter required tact and was emotionally strenuous for both of them, 27 they bothexpressed how their participation in this project taught them about blind spots of Palestinian society that theyhad never even dreamt of. Their reaction to the knowledge produced during my fieldwork has motivated manyof the reflections that feature throughout the thesis.A familiar question to anthropologists working with interpreters is how it moulds the knowledgegenerated. How can one study expressions of suffering and life with language skills that are, at best, moderate?Adhering to a notion of language informed by Wittgenstein and Cavell, I assume that language is more thanspoken words and grammatical structure (Das 1998; Cavell 1979). Language is interwoven with corporealexpression textured by the criteria through which we evaluate and judge others and other forms of life andgrant or deny acknowledgement (Cavell 1979). The anthropologist Thomas Csordas points to a tendency to‘mistrust language’s ability to provide access to experience’ (Csordas 2008: 118). This mistrust hinges on theidea of language as a mediator and of experience as true and inaccessible. Acknowledging that ‘both disclosingand obscuring are accessible to us in direct perception because of our analogue being in relation to others’ 28(ibid.), Csordas offers a conceptualisation of how understanding may be possible due to, yet also in spite of thelimits of language. Whereas my understanding and pronunciation of Arabic may be clumsy, my time andinteraction with Palestinians in the occupied territory as interlocutors, friends or interviewees has at leastpartially taught me the language of suffering of the occupied territory.II.X Knowledge of Suffering27Early in my fieldwork, Rawan and Mayy expressed how the encounter with the families of the detainees engenderedthoughts and feelings that questioned their fundamental beliefs and values. We spoke about these issues continuously.Acknowledging how emotionally strenuous such an encounter can be, I engaged a local and internationallyrenowned psychosocial counsellor to supervise my assistants during and after the fieldwork.28Csordas builds his argument on Paul Ricoeur’s contention that we are all similar: all others are like me in the sensethat all others ‘are egos just as I am. Like me they can impute their experiences to themselves’ (Ricoeur 1991: 239).In this sense, the words ‘I, you, he, she’ are equally analogous (Csordas 2008: 113). Csordas’s point of departurethus shows similarity to the part of my conceptual framework that draws on Cavell and Das. I will not go moredeeply into this similarity in this thesis – suffice to say that I am aware of it.55


As in the case of belief, I cannot locate your pain in the same way as I locate mine. The best I can dois to let it happen to me. Now it seems to me that anthropological knowledge is precisely about letting theknowledge of the other happen to me. (Das 1998: 192)This thesis is based on ethnographic data. The knowledge that has been generated from these data is partial formore than one reason. First, my methodological premise is that no knowledge is ever sufficiently deep orenough in quantitative terms. The description that results thus lacks finitude even at this stage. With everyanalytical theme I have written about, a new gap of knowledge has opened.Secondly, the partial nature of knowledge is because the data on which this thesis rests are,methodology aside, partially subjective, not only in light of the ethnographic material being about subjects,their thoughts and whereabouts in an intimate sphere. The partial nature of the thesis is due to how this formof knowledge has come into being, namely through inter-subjective engagement between my interlocutorsand myself. This engagement has naturally been vocal and verbal, yet it has as much been shaped throughintercorporeality (cf. Gammeltoft 2008, Csordas 2008). I consider intercorporeality to include being togetherwithout speaking, perhaps only exchanging sad, sneaky, critical, angry or outraged glances, giving each other ahug, watching television, picking olives or lying on mattresses next to each other with thoughts of the dayrunning through our heads. My material and focus concern the configurations of affect at the boundary ofintimate and collective spheres. This emphasis has involved giving attention to subtleties in verbal andcorporeal expression towards me during conversations and interactions, as well as internally among myinterlocutors, their kin and community in social forums in which I participated and observed. That thisregister of attention borders on and even transgresses the discipline of psychology appears throughout thethesis. The conceptual framework, the mode of analysis and the work of theory nonetheless converge in a wayof thinking I consider to be anthropological.Thirdly, the knowledge on which this thesis rests is subjective because I am the one knowing andgetting to know my subject matter over and over again. According to Strathern, the process of knowing createsa certain excess, a remainder (Strathern 2004: xxiii). In the context of this study, that excess is what I termpainful knowledge, knowledge I would rather not know because it is knowledge that for me questions what itmeans to be human. How much can human beings take before their humanity is left behind, like a remainder,left on a dusty byroad, over which cars, minicabs and tanks pass, pressing the remainder more deeply into thesand and making it part of the infrastructure of the land, the Holy Land? The knowledge I created togetherwith my interlocutors takes the form of a remainder. No matter how much analysis and theory which, like thetherapeutic method of Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, has as its main objective todesensitise ‘traumatic information’, that remaindering knowledge is, to me, painful.56


Part 2:ādi ˆ the affected ordinary.57


Chapter IIIWhy is Muna Crying?Suffering between Knowing and AcknowledgementThe training course in group therapy is well under way, and the participants are commenting on the lectureswith examples from their therapeutic practice. The Prisoners’ Support Centre in Nablus is hosting the course,and around twenty counsellors and therapists from psychosocial organisations across the West Bank arepresent in the large conference room. Two Spanish psychotherapists who have specialised in group therapy areteaching the course. A vital element of the course is how to enable the clients to establish what in therapeuticlanguage is termed ‘a safe place’ before exposing themselves by speaking about a traumatic experience in thetherapeutic group. The participants are invited to bring forth challenges themselves in practicing grouptherapy. A senior therapist at the Prisoners’ Support Centre, Muna, takes up the invitation and addressesproblems she has with a group of detainees’ wives who are currently undergoing group therapy.‘What if the clients do not have and cannot create a safe place? Life is out of control for thesewomen’. The teacher replied, ‘We have to help them establish a safe place.’ Muna continued, ‘I havea problem with a member of this group, Amina. She feels more victimised than all of the others.How can I deal with that?’ The teachers answered, ‘The feeling of victimhood is a feeling that “noone can understand me”. You could try asking her how she would feel if someone actuallyunderstood her? Because now she is excluding herself, isolating herself, which can be seen asself-punishment, she thinks that she is not allowed to be OK. She reacts like she expects herhusband to prefer that she is not OK. Ask her to imagine understanding, to look toward the future.Because she’s not staying the same: life changes.’During a coffee break during the course in group therapy, I enter Muna’s office and find her dishevelled. Iknow Muna as a woman who takes meticulous care to carry herself in a dignified and calm manner, regardlessof the circumstances. ‘I cried in front of the others; I am embarrassed’, Muna says. I have missed that sessiondue to an interview elsewhere in Nablus, yet Muna informs me that during the last two hours of the course thetopic was psychodrama. This form of therapy has gained considerable popularity in psychosocial interventionsacross the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Burmeister and Marciel 2007). The basic premise of psychodrama isthat suffering may be ameliorated by making the clients re-enact psychological conflicts (ibid.) With thispremise as their point of departure, the participants in the training course were asked to deal with a trickygroup therapeutic situation through role play. Muna had volunteered to enact a situation from the group forthe wives of the detainees. She had played the role of Amina, the woman whom Muna represented as feelingtoo much of a victim. Still upset from her public breakdown, Muna tells me: ‘When I played the role ofAmina and told the audience why I felt like a victim, I started crying and I could not stop; I just cried andcried. I felt for that moment that I was Amina. Esmail [Munas’ husband] is also political…’Why did the enactment of Amina cause Muna to cry? I reflect upon this question during this58


chapter’s contextualisation of suffering in the occupied territory. I show that the way in which suffering isknown and acknowledged in the context of the Palestinian meta-narrative and that of psychosocialorganisations in the occupied territory respectively does not encompass the experiences of wives of Palestiniandetainees. At a first glance this claim seems paradoxical. First, in the Palestinian meta-narrative the women arerelated to heroic resistance fighters. This relation alone presumably lends the women derivativeacknowledgement. Secondly, in the psychological understanding of affliction, by virtue of their relationshipwith a victim of violence or imprisonment, the women are included in the category of so-called ‘secondaryvictims’.My argument, however, is that such a relationship is only one of several criteria that are needed toobtain a full acknowledgement of one's suffering. It is not enough in itself. The two additional and closelyrelated criteria that must also be fulfilled in order for a person to have his or her suffering acknowledged arethat that person must have experienced a violent event that occurred in the immediacy of a delineated moment.In other words, whereas the suffering of detainees’ wives appears to be acknowledged, it is only partly so.Acknowledgement does not extend to that part of their suffering I have termed ‘non-linear suffering’ in theintroductory chapter. I suggest that this paradox arises due to the different temporalities underpinning thestanding language and the experiences of the detainees’ wives respectively.My initiating the analytical part of this thesis with the encounter between psychotherapy andhuman experience reflects my own encounter with the occupied territory. The chapter is positioned in theuneasiness with which I came to know how the global, psychological discourse unfolds with regard toknowing women’s suffering in the occupied territory, particularly the wives of asra’ (detainees) andšuhada’ (martyrs). In the context of this discourse, acknowledgement of these women’s experience is actualisedthrough, and limited by, the notion of ‘secondary traumatisation’. Through categorisation as secondarilytraumatised, the women are offered psychosocial interventions, such as the group therapy described above. Myinitial research interest concerned what is implied in ‘the suffering of someone who is secondarily traumatised’.During my time with the Prisoners’ Support Centre, I learned what Palestinian therapists and psychosocialorganisations perceive as belonging to this category of affliction and what they consider appropriate means ofaddressing it. As emerges from Muna’s difficulties with Amina’s case, there seems to be an inadequacy betweenthis therapeutic premise and the life it is supposed to heal, a premise that figures in the Spanish teacher’sverbalisation of Amina’s life, which he imagines is related to the onset of an event – her husband’simprisonment – to which she responds with immediate affect. Following an emotional response, she issupposed to recover. This understanding represents a way of knowing suffering. My unease with this mode ofknowing rests on my knowledge of the experiences of women in situations similar to Amina’s. Theirexperiences are not events set apart from the ordinary, nor do they unfold in a temporally linear register withan onset, an emotional response, and an aftermath in which recovery occurs.How I address this space of uneasiness feeds into a continuous interest in anthropology about the relationshipbetween experience and expression (cf. Bruner 1990; Throop 2008; Ochs and Capps 2001; Mattingly 1998),or between life and words (Das 2007; Jackson 2002). This question has been thoroughly addressed within thefield of narrative anthropology, where James Peacock and Dorothy Holland have formulated the gap betweenexperience and the narratives told about it as a non-transparent window of reality (Peacock and Holland59


1993: 374). Jerome Bruner’s Victor Turner-inspired work on narrative structure as reflecting the drama ofeveryday life is another frequently employed trope in this field of anthropology. The concern with languageand lived life is, however, most prominent within anthropological studies of pain and its expression (Daniel1997; Jackson 2002; Das 1998; 2007). Part of this anthropology can be said to rest upon the assumption ofthe inexpressibility of pain promoted in literary studies and psychology (cf. Scarry 1987; Caruth 1990).Through research 29 with men and women who have undergone torture and experienced bereavement andadversity, I have become hesitant to accept the assumption that pain is inexpressible per se. This hesitancyreverberates with Das’’ work on how pain after violence can be contained in individuals and communities(Das 1998; 2007). Das locates the inability or unwillingness to express pain between the individual andcommunity rather than as an inherent trait of the experience of pain. Her inspiration rests on the work ofWittgenstein concerning a fundamental question in Western epistemology: how do we know another person’spain? (Das 1998). This question, and Wittgenstein’s writing on ‘the problem of other minds’, have found anexpression in CavelI’s writing about the notion of the ordinary, pain and the relationship between self andother (Cavell 1979; 1988). It is due to the location of language and expression between human beings ratherthan within each of them that I have chosen Cavell’s work on how suffering in the other is recognised in orderto inform the inquiry in this chapter.Cavell distinguishes between knowing and acknowledgement (Cavell 1979: 263). He argues thatacknowledgment goes beyond knowledge by its possession of a moral dimension formulated as ‘recognisingwhat I know’ and acting upon it (ibid.). The interstice between knowing and acknowledgement and how thisrelates to the ordinary lives of the wives of detainees is the subject matter here. I suggest that the way in whichsuffering is known within lobal psychological discourse resonates with the Palestinian meta-narrative ofcollective suffering through how everyday affliction is expressed in terms of events, heroism and endurance inthe face of hardship (Afana, Pedersen,Kirmayer and Ronsbo in press). In accordance with this, I argue that alanguage centred on events and trauma is not a foreign language based on Western psychology that isirrelevant in a Palestinian context. Rather, as appeared in the vignette above, the Palestinian counsellor Munaspeaks about her client Amina by using the vocabulary of group therapy, therapeutic progress and theestablishment of a safe place, only later to identify with Amina’s situation of being the wife of a man who ispolitically active. Conversely, Muna employs a language of affect alternating and merging psychological jargonwith Palestinian modes of knowing affliction. Inspired by Cavell (1979), I term the intersection of these twomodes of knowing suffering the standing language of knowing and acknowledging suffering in the occupiedPalestinian territory. 30 In employing this language, Muna simultaneously recognises the discrepancy betweenit and the suffering experienced by her client Amina.On this basis I argue that an inherent dissonance is folded into the standing language and theexperiences it attempts to describe and ameliorate. I suggest that this language rests on what are often seen astwo contrasting discourses (cf. Summerfield 1999; Fassin and Rechtman 2009; Pupavac 2001). The first of29 Since 2004 I have carried out research in Denmark, Gaza and the West Bank with refugees and survivors oftorture and organised violence (cf. Buch 2005; Ronsbo and Buch forthcoming).30 Hereafter I refer to the standing language of knowing and acknowledging suffering in the occupied Palestinianterritory as the standing language.60


these discourses is a global, psychological discourse framed, explicitly and implicitly, around the notion oftrauma, that is, the occurrence of a harmful event and the onset of an affective response that will evolve into arestorative aftermath. 31 The other is the Palestinian meta-narrative that underlies personal and collectiveaccounts of affliction. Such accounts are folded into the public obligation to recount the harmful events thePalestinians have lived through since the inception of the state of Israel in 1948 (Abu-Lughod and Sa’di 2007).In her study of shifting modes of commemoration in Lebanon, the Middle East scholar Laleh Khalili contendsthat the Palestinian nationalist narrative about past defeat and suffering changes over time in object, tone andresonance (Khalili 2007: 4). Currently the narrative has as its central figures Palestinian heroes and martyrs(ibid.). Following Allen I consider the Palestinian meta-narrative to ‘permeate Palestinian political discourseand social relations, and the political and social effects of that saturation’ (Allen 2009: 163). Unlike in thefollowing chapters, in this chapter the global, psychological discourse serves as a figure, whereas the Palestinianmeta-narrative about suffering serves as ground (Strathern 2004: 81). 32 Running through this chapter is also ahesitation regarding the trend critically examined by Leys (2000) of extending uncritically the notion of‘trauma’ (Breslau, 2004, Herman 2002) to disciplines other than psychology and psychiatry. My hesitation isdue to my aim of understanding enduring, unspectacular affliction, rather than extraordinary eventstraumatically rupturing the everyday.I shall therefore analyse modes of understanding and acknowledging suffering in the occupiedterritory at the convergence of psychosocial intervention, claims to victimhood and discourses on heroism.My aim is to illuminate the criteria on which the standing language is based. Accordingly, the chapter isstructured around what I suggest are three key criteria of the acknowledgement of suffering in the occupiedterritory, namely event, relation, and immediacy. Discussing in conclusion how these criteria are actualised inthe encounter between therapeutic practice and life, I return to the question: Why is Muna crying?III.I Knowing Suffering in the Occupied Territory: Events, Relation and ImmediacyIn their recent book The Empire of Trauma (2009), the sociologists Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman mapout how knowledge production about suffering and interventions in the occupied territory have shifted inscope and focus since al-Intifāa al-Aqsa in 2000-2003 (Fassin and Rechtman 2009). From providing medicalassistance to people who were wounded during the direct violent clashes during al-Intifāa al-awwal in1987-1993, the orientation of international donors has changed to the broader, all-inclusive category ofconducting psychosocial interventions with the people affected by, for instance, house demolitions, violentclashes, invasions into homes and the loss, wounding or bereavement of family members. Investigating theoccupied territory as a significant site for psychiatry, psychology and related disciplines, Fassin and Rechtmanargue that, rather than following the precise diagnostic criteria for evaluating the state of a client,31 See, for instance, Young’s The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing post-traumatic stress disorder (Young 1995).32 Strathern’s notions of figure and ground stems from her suggestion that the anthropologist’s business is ‘to attendto what people make explicit’ (Strathern 2004: 81). Building on Roy Wagner’s work, Strathern argues that everyfigure and form that is elicited simultaneously contains figures that are eclipsed. At one point one figure isforegrounded and another obscured, whereas this may change according to the relational configuration, which istaking place continuously (ibid.).61


interventions and representation of suffering slide into a witnessing of the general situation of the Palestinians.Fassin and Rechtman term this phenomenon ‘humanitarian psychiatry’ (2009: 209). The authors thus pointto a discrepancy between the forms of knowledge that are available to diagnose suffering and how this hasbeen applied. Taking my point of departure in a different sense of discrepancy, I build on Fassin andRechtman’s thorough mapping of the landscape of humanitarian psychiatry in the occupied territory. Byinterrogating the interweaving of discourses of suffering as trauma, the institutional arrangements ofpsychosocial organisations and therapeutic realities, the criteria permeating this proliferation of psychiatry,psychology and psychosocial interventions are teased out.III.II The Criterion of EventFassin and Rechtman suggest that a focus on direct violence and the events that cause traumatisation havebeen obviated for the sake of the clinical narratives of clients, their general life circumstances and mundanesuffering (2009: 201). By contrast I demonstrate how, across spheres of knowledge, funding and therapeuticpractice, the event serves as a marker for suffering across diagnoses, narratives, and representation even whensuffering is not related to the occurrence of an event. I argue that the standing language that is available forknowing suffering fails to acknowledge forms of affliction that are not eventful. Experiences available to beknown include direct, graphic and most notably physical violence with medically or forensically detectableconsequences. It appeared during fieldwork in the Prisoners’ Support Centre that such experiences of directviolence are still an important part of the documenting of suffering.One such example is a new manual containing guidelines for the task of documenting tortureamong its survivors, namely the ‘Istanbul Protocol: Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentationof Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’ 33 (OHCRHR 2004; IRCT,2009). This protocol is currently being implemented across the global anti-torture movement as a way forindividual organisations to document torture and support claims of reparation according to the UNconvention against torture 34 (OHCRC 1984). Training offered by, for example, Danish-based organisationssuch as the Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims and the International Rehabilitation Council forTorture Victims is popular among Palestinian partner centres that know the power of evidence. The protocolfor forensically detecting and describing objective signs of torture constitutes an attempt to provide neutraland objective modes of describing the effects of state violence. It can be said that these criteria for knowingsuffering become gendered in their actualisation through funding, therapeutic practice and theacknowledgement of suffering, since in the occupied territory, as elsewhere, direct and graphic forms ofviolence overwhelmingly belong to a male realm of experience. This is by no means exclusively the case, but,for instance, of the 6,891 Palestinians (Btselem, 2009) that are currently detained in Israeli prisons, only 75 arewomen (Palestine Monitor 2008).In the everyday of the Prisoners’ Support Centre, documenting the physical consequences oftorture and detention occurs in tandem with diagnosing and treating ailments psychologically. Like zones of33 http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/training8Rev1en.pdf34 http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cat.htm62


protracted conflict all over the world, extensive emphasis on the psychological and mental effects of violencehave perpetuated the theory and practice of alleviating violence since the early 1990s (Fassin 2008; Pupavac2001; Summerfield 1999). As an employee of a Swiss development organisation said about the omnipresenceof such forms of intervention; “Is it not what we all do these days?” It is this phenomenon that Fassin andRechtman term ‘the empire of trauma’ (2009). A most obvious expression of this empire is the sheer amountof scientific articles, studies and statistics of the prevalence of traumatic events and Post Traumatic StressDisorder among Palestinians carried out by both Palestinian and international scientists (Hein 1993; Salo2004). In the offices of the psychotherapists and counsellors at the Prisoners’ Support Centre, a photocopywas hung on the wall of the DSM-IV checklist of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety, ObsessiveCompulsive Disorder and Depression. Contrary to what Fassin and Rechtman argue (2009: 209), thisindicates to me how the logic of the earlier focus on direct, graphic and physically wounding violenceresonates in how therapists imagine their clients’ suffering to be about a violent event that is direct anddetectable through psychiatric diagnosis.This is exemplified in the following extract from a taped conversation with Muna about the form oftherapy she is doing with the group of detainees’ wives. The conversation, although recorded, was informal. Itwas carried out in November 2007, six months into my fieldwork, of which early on I spent a considerableamount of time among the psychologists and counsellors in their office, on outreach sessions in villages and inclinical sessions at the Prisoners’ Support Centre. When we had this conversation I was observing the grouptherapy she was doing with the group of women referred to in the opening vignette to this chapter. At thetime of the conversation we were eating our lunch, cheese and toast roasted on the heater put in place to warmup a new, November-cold concrete building.Lotte: So it is not like the traditional… it is not like group analysis you are doing, it is CBT[cognitive behavioural therapy]?Muna: Yes.Lotte: Why?Muna: They need cognitive behavioural therapy, they need many things during the day, they areunder the pressure of society, or they suffer from traumatic events and maybe there are irrationalthoughts in their minds like ‘ I'm a wife of a detainee, I can't go out, I can't do anything’, this isirrational beliefs. In CBT we can work with these beliefs through working with relaxationtechniques. She has to be relaxed, and know how to use behavioural therapy with her children.Lotte: And what do you think are the major traumatic events of these women lives?Muna: Can you repeat?Lotte: You said you wanted to change the way they think about the traumatic events; what are thetraumatic events of these women’s lives?Muna: What other traumatic events?Lotte: What are their traumatic events?Muna: I don’t understand.Lotte: You said that you want to use CBT because you want to change…63


Muna: The beliefs, how the society put their irrational beliefs or their wrong beliefs about thedetainees wives in their heads.Lotte: OK, and what are your primary goals with the group therapy, or...Muna: Yes OK, the goals. I want to remove the traumatic events from their lives. During thesession, the women said, Oh, I am not alone, there's another woman like me, when some of themsaid I feel like this and like this, another one said I feel the same, I suffer like you, I am notthe only one who feels that. They learn from each other, how to deal with problems like thechildren and the family-in-law. And we need to teach them some techniques, like how to face andtry to solve the problems, problem solving, like this. This is the goal.Including bits of misunderstanding from the conversation sheds light on the ambiguity in the therapist’slanguage about why she employs Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. In our conversation, she frames the women’safflictions as traumatic events that have befallen them. At the same time, when speaking about what sheconsiders to be the root of the women’s suffering, she refers to the pressure of society, dealing with childrenand with the family law. The example illuminates how the occurrence of a traumatic event is emphasised in thestanding language. Yet when Muna explained what she meant by ‘traumatic event’, she recounted experiencesfrom the women’s everyday lives. The discrepancy between the language available to know suffering and theexperiences the therapist tries to heal is embodied both in this one therapist and in the entireinstitutionalisation of ameliorating suffering psychosocially in the occupied territory. Contrary to Fassin andRechtman’s argument that clinical narratives are at present about context rather than events, my conversationwith Muna points to the parallel existence of the language of traumatic events as a means of knowing sufferingand an acknowledgement that the object of amelioration is the everyday. The co-existence of the two isanalysed below through a description of how trauma is institutionalised in the occupied territory.III.II.I We Follow the Fashion - Suffering as physical and mental afflictionAs the director of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Dr Nader Abu Amshe, explained to mein his office in Beit Sahour, close to Bethlehem, the trope of traumatisation as a mode of imagining the plightof the Palestinians occurred with the registration of the mental effects on the wounded victims of al-Intifā aal-awwal from 1987 to 1993. The Palestinian YMCA is a globally respected organisation offering assistance topeople with disabilities. Locally they are considered one of the most professional organisations in the field ofpsychosocial assistance. Dr Abu Amshe recalled that initially attention was paid to the soaring number ofphysical injuries that were occurring due to the direct nature of the violent clashes between the Israeli Armyand the Palestinians. However, the centres and institutions that were offering services to the injured at thattime soon became aware of the psychological effects that often occurred in tandem with the physical injuries.And, alongside other spheres of conflict across the globe, ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’ was crystallised as amode of presenting the suffering of the Palestinians towards the world (cf. Young 1995, Fassin 2008,Somasunderam 1998), as well as to ‘eager, but uncaring donors’, to quote Dr Nejmeh, who had been thedirector of a major health NGO during the 1990s. He narrated the emergence of Post Traumatic StressDisorder in the occupied territory and its intersection with physical injuries in the following manner one64


morning in his clinic in Ramallah:Before the YMCA there was nothing, but it was related to the Intifada-injured people, which issomething completely different from what was later called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was adirect physical pressure or manifestation, say, if you lost an eye or you are in a wheelchair. It wasrelated to a physical happening: we were dealing with a psychological phenomenon after a physicalhappening. The idea changed, but first it was accepted from the wider society and people were OKbecause they could say ‘I have a physical problem because I am now unable to walk’, ‘I have aphysical problem because I am blind’ etc.The second step was that people started to be aware of physical problems due to psychologicalproblems. Yes, the other way around, this was the second step. So the YMCA and the Red Cross, asI said it was a big programme all over the West Bank, and they always come back to Eyad Sarraj inGaza, where things were turned around and people started to talk about psychological dysfunction.Now we were much quicker than the society in our recognition of the problem, and that approachdid not match with what people wanted. So we were more advanced than our reality, and peoplestarted to pursue projects instead of talking about all those issues. At the same time there was noone who was able to take on the actual task, and here entered the self-centred NGO work.In this quote, Dr Nejmeh draws attention to how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the occupied territory wasintrinsically related at its inception to a physical phenomenon, thus addressing the problem of how the movefrom physical injuries to psychological distress is circular rather than linear, as otherwise suggested by Fassinand Rechtman. In his account, Dr Nejmeh alludes to the main Palestinian actors in the field of psychosocialinterventions who were working under the umbrella of trauma as a response to violence. 35 Among the mostsignificant is the internationally respected Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. This is theorganisation to which Dr Nejmeh referred as the place in which the notion of Post Traumatic Stress Disorderfirst occurred in the occupied territory. As Fassin and Rechtman note, this centre has been crucial in how PostTraumatic Stress Disorder has become a highly significant mode of presenting the plight of the Palestinians tothe world (Fassin and Rechtman 2009: 208). In the West Bank, the vital players in this field are the YMCA,the Palestinian Counselling Centre, and the Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims. Theseactors are different in focus: for instance, the Palestinian Counselling Centre has as its aim to provide a highstandard of psychotherapy to anybody suffering psychologically due to the occupation. The Treatment andRehabilitation Centre, on the other hand, built its organisation around support for the Palestinian detaineesand their families. Drawing attention to precisely these organisations rests on what they share across divergentservices, political affiliations and therapeutic treatment models. They have been set up to help those who areperceived to have been most severely afflicted by the occupation, namely the detainees, the torture survivors,35 These organisations include the Palestinian branches of the International Committee of the Red Cross, thePalestinian Red Crescent Society, Medicins sans Frontiers, Medicins du Monde, the World Health Organisation(WHO) and the Mental Health Hospital in Bethlehem.65


or those suffering from physical disability brought about by what are considered heroic acts of resistance. It isviolence, and thus event, rather than general health or mental health that cuts across the foci of theseinstitutions. These resonances point towards the influence of the standing language of knowing suffering.The founding and sustaining of these organisations is undertaken with aid from Western donorsand experts from the United States and Europe. In particular Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, France, England,Denmark and Norway have been and continue to be significant donors. These countries, their financial aidand knowledge have been instrumental in shaping how the Palestinian organisations have grown, and this hasset the benchmarks regionally in the Middle East and internationally too (Hanafi and Tabar 2005). Theorganisations mentioned now occupy an ever-growing number of the educated Palestinian middle class ofhealth professionals, hence the doctor’s remark that some organisations may have forgotten the main objectiveof their organisation and started to focus on internal sustainability instead. Later in our interview, Dr Nejmehstated:The problem is the lack of human resources: we don’t have psychiatrists. I think in the West Bankthere are two or three, in Gaza also two maybe. Instead we have people who study psychology and then theyact as psychological consultants and we have social workers who have had some training in psychology andsociological behaviour.Dr Nejmeh addresses the educational background of the professionals who are both diagnosing and treatingthose who are perceived to be suffering from a psychiatric disorder. Many of those working as counsellors ortherapists have been educated at Birzeit University, the largest and most highly respected Palestinianuniversity in the occupied territory. There, the therapists have earned BA’s in psychology and educationfollowing an American model of learning at university. 36 This implies that the curriculum at Birzeit isprimarily theoretical. Because the Palestinian Authority’s own psychological services have a reputation forbeing understaffed, inefficient and out of date, students of psychology seek employment in the NGOs afterending their BA’s. And, since there is at present (2010) no MA or further specialisation in counselling apartfrom professional diplomas in School Counselling, Family Counselling or Counselling, specialised training isgiven under the auspices of the NGOs. As can be seen in the opening vignette concerning the shortcomings ofgroup therapy, such courses are often taught by European or North American teachers who are part of a loosenetwork of people who undertake the training of therapists in conflict and post-conflict areas globally. Thesecourses are funded and negotiated by the donors of the centres. At the moment, courses in Eye Movement andDesentisization and Reprocessing method (EMDR), 37 narrative therapy, group therapy and Cognitive36The teaching and curriculum follows those at the American University of Beirut, in whose image BirzeitUniversity was created in 1974.37EMDR is a therapeutic method that aims to desensitise the traumatic information that has been left unprocessedin the client. This is done by the therapist moving his or her hand in a steady rhythm, like a pendulum, in front ofthe clients’ eyes while the client retrieves and recounts the traumatic event. The method was invented by FrancineShapiro in the 1980s (Shapiro 2001).66


Behavioural Therapy (CBT) 38 are among the most sought after. This is similar to how these therapeuticinterventions, save for narrative therapy, figure in the National Institute for Clinical Excellence guidelines forthe effective treatment of trauma victims in the United Kingdom (Gersons and Olff, 2005). As the researchcoordinator of the Prisoners’ Support Centre dryly said to me:We follow the fashion. We might want a course in family therapy, but in Europe or the US, EMDRor Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is on everybody’s lips and thus on the list of training courses that, forexample, the EU want to fund.Illustrating how ideas travel globally, the quote recalls the view of the therapist Muna, for whom CognitiveBehavioural Therapy appeared to be the most comprehensive method for dealing with ‘the traumatic events’ ofthe detainees’ wives.The Palestinian psychosocial organisations and the individual therapists who work with thempresented their therapeutic approaches to me as eclectic, comprehensive psychosocial programmes that takeinto consideration the entire human being and his or her life world. This approach was developed in Westernscholarship in the 1980s (Williamson and Robinson 2006) as a reaction to the biomedical model of traumaemployed in psychiatry (ibid.). Despite the history of the psychosocial intervention complex, however, accessto the treatment and services offered by the centres mentioned above are allocated according to the scores ofthe client on the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire and other mental health-ranking instruments. These scoresdetermine whether the client is showing symptoms of anxiety disorder, depression, or, as in the majority ofcases, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.This was made clear to me when I joined the newly educated therapist Ahmad at a school in Salfit,where he was to undertake psychosocial interventions. It was in July 2007 and, that summer being unusuallyhot, the driver, Ahmad and I were all hot and bothered when we finally arrived at Salfit from Nablus via thePalestinian byroads . The visit to the school forms part of the so-called outreach work, which is an attempt toaddress the fact that many clients are not able to come to the centre’s offices for treatment for financial reasonsor fear of rumours if anyone sees them walking into the premises of the organisation. Outreach work is verypopular among psychosocial organisations, among the ‘target group’ of clients and not least among thedonors. It is taken as a sign that the organisations, far from being elitist, are committed to helping thebeneficiaries who are most in need. At the Prisoners Support Centre, well over half of the consultations tookplace through outreach work. The work is often done by the most recent employees in the organisation andthus often with those who have the least clinical experience. In the morning, around three or four therapistswill either be driven by the organisation’s driver in the centre’s car, or will take as-servīs (a minibus) to thevillage that is the target of today’s outreach work. The journey often lasts around an hour, after which thetherapists are dropped off in front of the houses of their clients. The driver then waits for the two or threehours it takes for the therapists to finish their work. From my participation in many such outreach trips, I38CBT is currently one of the most popular methods of therapy across the world (Bisson 2008; Bisson et al. 2010).The method is a systematic mode of goal- and future-oriented therapy that has as its objective to changebehavioural patterns in the client. CBT is thus different from the classic psychoanalytical mode of therapy, whichrelies on retrieving and reflecting upon childhood memories.67


know the therapists often dread it. Outreach work in practice involves the hassle of a long journey, the lack ofpauses and the frustration of not being able to do proper therapy due to the therapeutic space being the home,with the family, children and guests walking in and out of the sessions. The tired atmosphere of a car full oftherapists and the ensuing hours of recovery are distinctly tangible. Many of the therapists I intervieweddoubted the efficiency of the outreach work. But donors like it. And, given the pressure of being able to provethat services are effective and reach as many people as possible, the outreach teams were often under pressureto meet as many clients as possible during their trips. There is therefore a sense that some of the work is beingdone hurriedly.When we reached the school, Ahmad showed me the different classrooms, the computer rooms, theart rooms and the playground. Then we went to the school director’s office, outside of which three childrenwere waiting. Ahmad asked one of the children to join him, and the other two had to wait. The ‘case’ was ayoung boy who had witnessed his father being injured by Israeli soldiers in the street. The father had been leftalive, but apparently the child suffered from concentration problems. Closing the door behind us, Ahmadtook out his papers and went through the checklist for symptoms for around twenty minutes, during whichcurious children constantly banged upon the door and pushed it open with a roar of laughter. The boy thenleft the room and with a shrug of the shoulders Ahmad told me that he had ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’and listed the symptoms of the DSM-IV. The examination of the two other children followed the sameprocedure. Having consulted the three children, we quickly left and got into car to go back to Nablus.Rather than exposing Ahmad as a therapist who is not quite at home in the intricate work ofdiagnosing affliction, this instance shows how the notion of trauma is in practice employed under theumbrella of psychosocial interventions despite psychosocial interventions being based at the outset on acritical approach to conceiving of suffering as trauma. Ahmad’s translation of the boy’s concentrationproblems into the language of trauma proved a way for the therapist to know the boy’s affliction and thereforeenable his distress to be ameliorated. How an event-based understanding of suffering seeps into a mode oftreatment that is at the outset holistic is an effect of entangled strands of donor pressure, the lack of clinicaltraining, burn-out and not least the fact that the therapists often share the experiences of their clients. Traumais a manageable proxy for the conglomerate of such experiences.Medicalisation critiques aside (Kleinman 1996, Summerfield 1999), Post Traumatic Stress Disorderis a proliferating global signifier for suffering. It has allowed sufferers to make claims to both financialcompensation and acknowledgement of their suffering (Young 1995; Somasunderam 1998; Fassin andRechtman 2009). The diagnosis also allows centres like the Palestinian organisations to document theiractivities for both current and potential donors, who, in choosing which among the centres to fund, look formarkers other than humanitarian psychiatry, whose pivotal objective is to witness the affliction of thePalestinians rather than to provide medical or psychiatric treatment (Fassin 2009; Fassin and Rechtman2009). For instance, the donors take into account the guidelines of the UK National Institute of ClinicalEvidence to make sure that their funding goes to centres that are undertaking evidence-based therapy. The pastpresident of the European Society for Studies of Traumatic Stress cast this preference on the part of thedonors in an interesting light during his keynote lecture at the organisation’s meeting in London in 2008. Hestated that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Eye Movement Desentisization and Reprocessing method and68


group therapy comprise forms of therapy of which one can make randomised control trials. 39 This, however,does not mean that the other forms of intervention do not work – they are just not that easy to test. Themonitoring of methods of therapy and their effects has been an issue for Palestinian organisations in the fieldof psychosocial interventions for a number of years, yet to make randomised control trials in conflict areas is achallenge only a few have undertaken successfully. The fact that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and anemphasis on trauma or shock is an effective way of addressing suffering among Palestinians thus remains a‘proven’ truth by randomised control trials of victims of rape, American Vietnam veterans, victims of terrorattacks and British victims of traffic accidents (Bisson and Andrew 2009).The above contextualisation of suffering and how it is understood in the occupied territory hasilluminated how the standing language has come into being and how it works through funding strategies,therapeutic practice and the Palestinian’s national understanding of themselves as a people with direct,physical wounds. It has been shown how a pivotal criterion for inclusion in the standing language is theoccurrence of a violent event. As will appear further on, this criterion is both inclusive and obligatory: if thereis no occurrence of a violent event in the story of one’s suffering, doubt can be raised about the claim foracknowledgement.III.III The Criterion of RelationThe DSM-IV diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder emphasises both the occurrence of a traumatic eventand the ensuing emotional response of traumatisation (DSM-IV). It is considered both a fact and a source ofpuzzlement among researchers and mental health professionals that women both universally and in theoccupied territory display higher Post Traumatic Stress Disorder scores than men, despite the fact that womenare rarely the majority experiencing so-called traumatic events of torture, detention, direct violence or the like(Helweg-Larsen and Kastrup 2007). Women are admitted to rehabilitation programs due to theirclassification as secondary victims because of their relationship to the primary victim (Solomon et al. 2004).What includes women in the realm of known affective responses is therefore the connection to the men theyare related to, their sons, husbands or fathers. The terms ‘secondary victim’ or ‘secondary traumatisation’ areused interchangeably in everyday clinical language in the occupied territory. The following is therefore aninvestigation of the criterion of relationship as a marker of suffering and the relative position of this criterionin the standing language.I embarked my PhD research hoping to examine the gendered dynamics of suffering and violenceamong torture survivors and their families in the West Bank in a situation in which it is predominantly menwho are torture victims or survivors (Btselem, 2008). But, my major field context being the occupied territory,the term ‘torture victim’ is used beyond what is implied by its forensic and legal sense. Palestinians, includingcounsellors and therapists, refer to themselves in everyday language as a collective of torture survivors of39‘Random allocation to intervention groups; Patients and trialists should remain unaware of which treatment wasgiven until the study is completed—although such double blind studies are not always feasible or appropriate; All interventiongroups are treated identically except for the experimental treatment; Patients are normally analysed within thegroup to which they were allocated, irrespective of whether they experienced the intended intervention (intention totreat analysis); The analysis is focused on estimating the size of the difference in predefined outcomes between interventiongroups’ (Sibbald 1998).69


varying and competing degrees, but irrespective of the UN definition of torture (OHCHR). 40 ‘Torture’ isused in the vernacular as a term that includes the effects of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories,ranging from abuse at checkpoints, interrogation procedures during detention and imprisonment to thedenial of basic human rights, the most infamous of these being the denial of the right of return to the morethan 700,000 Palestinians who fled their villages and homes with the birth of the State of Israel in 1948(Pappé 2007). In Arabic this is known as Al Nakba, which means ‘the catastrophe’ (Abu-Lughod and Sa’adi2007).Whereas all Palestinians experience the occupation and the described effects of ‘torture’ intrinsic toit, they do so to varying degrees. Those considered to have sacrificed their lives, hopes and personal well-beingfor the national struggle for a state are asra, (detainees) or šuhada (martyrs) (Nashif 2008: 195). They are, asstated. considered to be the heroes of an ongoing national struggle, and they figure as the main characters inPalestinian narratives about national becoming (Khalili 2007). Illuminating this point is the following versefrom a song praising the detainees:1) Let glory be for all our detainees2) And for those who suffer and sacrifice for Palestine!3) Hey you free knights … the sunshine reflects its light on your faces4) They wait for the dawn to start a new day full of wishes and dreams of freedom5) It doesn't matter how many years they spend dreaming and wishing6) The most important is that they still have these dreams after all these years7) Let glory be for all our detainees8) And for those who suffer and sacrifice for Palestine! 41Due to the potential side effects of physical and mental torment after detention or a failed but woundingevent of resistance against Israel, the detainees and martyrs also occupy the category of primary victims in thepsychological discourse described above, whose point of gravity is the notion of trauma. The twin position ashero/victim is brought about through a resonance between the figures of hero and victim respectively. Thisresonance is based on the victim/hero’s relation to a violent event that entails either traumatisation or heroismor both. This resonance also appears in the song above: in line 4 the notion of a new start is evoked, involvingdesires and freedom. It may be said that this reference to an ‘after’ recalls the idea of an aftermath intrinsic tothe linear model of suffering as event, traumatisation and aftermath.A convergence therefore emerges in how the legitimacy of victimhood and suffering is producedand lived through resonance between the internationally conceived psychosocial interventions and40According to the UN convention against torture, torture is defined as ‘any act by which severe pain or suffering,whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or athird person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or issuspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based ondiscrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consentor acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain orsuffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions’ (OHCHR 1984).41The song was written by Ayman Ramadan (2005).70


Palestinian notions about heroes, sacrifice (Allen 2009; 2006; Khalili 2007), gender and suffering (Lau Ee Ija2003). Whereas this argument recalls both Pupavac and Fassin in their critique of the ‘therapeutic governanceregime’ (Pupavac 1994, Fassin 2008), the concern here is not, as the anthropologist Annelise Riles writes inher study of UN policy-making, to voice a critique or unmask the power relations beneath the ‘therapeuticregime’ (Riles 1998). According to Riles, this seems to have become the way in which anthropologists andsocial scientists analyse non-governmental organisations in the global South (ibid.). Rather, what areinteresting are the points of convergence that have allowed such notions – the discourses, methods ofamelioration and thinking about suffering – to resonate and become the standing language.As already described, this language both elicits and eclipses certain forms of life and suffering.Among the world’s conflicts, the occupied territory could be said to serve as a global imaginary of suffering, alens, even, through which other of the world’s ongoing conflicts are seen. Fassin attends to this by referring toMehl’s study of the relationship between images and their audience, combining a protocol of compassion onthe part of broadcasters with a surge for compassion on the part of their audiences (Mehl in Fassin 2009:194). If we pause for a while with the metaphor of the lens, the image of the suffering Palestinian populationcontains figures that are elicited, whereas others are present but eclipsed by those figures, which stand out. Theimage contains the man passing on his message to his family in the post-mortem martyr videos; we see youngchildren crying, or throwing stones somewhere between victimisation and resistance; and the picture containsthe mother mourning proudly over her deceased sons. As both Khalili (2007) and Allen (2006, 2007) havenoted, these figures have come to embody the Palestinian struggle for recognition of their suffering as acollective. Allen further notes that visualisation plays a most crucial role in the propagation of the Palestiniansas deserving victims who are worthy of recognition (Allen 2009). In line with the earlier description of thestanding language, the visualisation of deceased bodies and weeping mothers is imbued by both the invocationof a violent event as a cause for suffering and, in parallel, the derivative suffering that occurs through relations,the relationship between mother and son being emblematic thereof.Comprehending the proliferation of some forms of suffering in both these images and the standinglanguage can be facilitated through Strathern’s notions of eliciting and eclipsing (Strathern 2004: 82). Elicitingconcerns those forms of suffering that are included in the limelight of acknowledgement by appearing distinctfrom the ground in which they are configured. Eclipsing, on the other hand, is employed of the forms ofsuffering that slide out of view when others are elicited (Strathern 2004: 81).Those who are not perceived by fellow Palestinians to have a legitimate place in the above register ofacknowledgement are the women married to detainees. When I began fieldwork at the Prisoners’ SupportCentre and asked to meet the secondary victims, I was led to precisely the mothers and widows of martyrs andthe mothers of detainees, and to only a few women who were married to detainees. Since there are currently6891 adult, male detainees in Israeli prisons (Btselem, 2009), it is not a low number of wives that kept mefrom meeting these women. Having explained my project to lay people, professional counsellors, academicsand international aid workers, it became clear that, among the responses to my research, the most frequent wasa shrug signalling that what I was interested in was not the real thing. The intended subjects of my researchinterest did not really occupy a significant place among those Palestinians who are perceived by fellowPalestinians and international development workers alike to have suffered so much that it is worthy of71


acknowledgement. The pivotal criterion, then, both for admitting people to ameliorating measures or servicesand for acknowledging their suffering is the presence of an event that cause the affective response oftraumatisation.However, from the recognition of secondary victims in psychosocial interventions and themirroring inclusion in the Palestinian representation of those most afflicted, relation is shown to figure as acriterion for inclusion in the standing language too. But, if relation is a criterion equal to that of event, what isit about the experiences of living a life married to a detainee that is apparently included into the standinglanguage but fails acknowledgement?In order to understand the space between the standing language and the experiences of thedetainees’ wives, Cavell’s distinction between knowing and acknowledgement is a prolific analytic. To know,argues Cavell, means to read and to allow yourself to be read by others, such that ‘a process of being read, asfinding your fate in your capacity for interpretation for yourself’ (Cavell 1988: 16). Being known as a humanbeing thus allows oneself a language for speaking and thinking about oneself and one’s experience. Cavell,however, notes the discrepancy between knowing (reading) and experience by arguing that, althoughlanguage straightens out experience, experience can never be straightened out ‘except through existingitself’ (Cavell 1988: 33). This process of straightening out is what I have discussed with regard to therepresentation of suffering about Palestinians as an afflicted population. This process unfolds through what Ihave termed convergence between global, psychological discourse and the Palestinian meta-narrative.Through convergence, the criteria of violent events and relations are actualised.There is an analogy between Cavell’s argument about straightening out and Strathern’s notion ofeclipsing. Whereas Cavell is concerned with the interstice between language and experience, and Strathernaddresses the elicitation of certain figures at the cost of obscured others, both can be used to shed light on whysome forms of suffering appear to be eclipsed by others in the occupied territory. Whereas Strathern doesmuch to illuminate the configurations of suffering, Cavell’s approach facilitates understanding of what itmeans to live as those figures whose experiences have been straightened out beyond recognition.I have argued that resonance provides a fertile notion to think about the ways in which notions ofsuffering converge at particular points and thereby actualise the eclipsing and eliciting of certain forms ofsuffering. Inspired by the work of Deleuze on difference as infinite and as generative of repetition (Deleuze1994), Connolly ponders the relationship between the evangelical Christian right in the US and capitalism(Connolly 2005). Connolly argues that there is a relationship of causation as resonance ‘between elementsthat become fused to a considerable degree’ (Connolly 2005: 870). 42 By elements that become fused to aconsiderable degree, Connolly refers to how neither political economy nor religious practice are selfcontained,but rather infiltrate each other, though the one is not the cause of the other. Thus, defying linearcausality, Connolly argues that currently in the US an Evangelical-Capitalist resonance machine isreverberating between the spheres of religion and political economy. I am not arguing that a Trauma-Palestinian Suffering resonance machine figures as a doctrinal discourse in the occupied territory. Nonetheless42Causation as resonance is defined ‘as relations of dependence between separate factors, morph[ing] into energizedcomplexities of mutual imbrication and interinvolvement, in which heretofore unconnected or loosely associatedelements fold, bend, blend, emulsify and dissolve into each other, forging a qualitative assemblage resistant toclassical models of explanation’ (Connolly 2005).72


the sensibilities of resonance rather than similarity are productive in understanding how some forms ofsuffering are acknowledged, whereas others slip the volatile criteria that know them. Resonance actualises theconvergence between a global psychological understanding of suffering as trauma and the Palestinian metanarrative.In this sense, resonance can be said to engender the standing language.Defining convergence, it is the point at which lines ‘intersect again, where the directions cross andwhere the tendencies that differ in kind link together again to give rise to the thing as we know it’ (Deleuze1988: 28). The lines in question here are global, psychological discourse understanding of suffering as traumaand the Palestinian meta-narrative respectively. The thing is the human experience of affliction. Convergenceis a means of understanding how a Palestinian focus on heroic suffering and violent events resonate with thecriteria of experiencing a traumatic event that circulates in the globalised categorisation and diagnosis ofpeople as traumatised (Young 1995). One point of convergence is therefore the notion of an event. I arguethat a focus on an event as a claim to acknowledgement perpetuates the standing language of suffering. Thisargument opposes Fassin and Rechtman, who suggest that real instances of violence seem to have beendisplaced by stories of mundane suffering in clinical encounters. The contrast in our findings may be due toFassin and Rechtman localising their inquiry elsewhere along the lines of differentiation, where, as noted, Ihave teased out resonance and convergence, rather than the opposition between a global, psychologicaldiscourse and a Palestinian meta-narrative on suffering. The convergence is viable because the Palestinianpeople’s global visibility is currently produced through the lens of traumatisation, which rests on the notion of‘traumatic events’ in a similar fashion as do people’s accounts, media shows and scientific studies aboutPalestinian affliction.As has also emerged in this part of the chapter, relation is a further point of convergence between aPalestinian meta-narrative and a global, psychological discourse. Against this background, it seems that thecriterion of relation includes the detainees’ wives in the register of acknowledgement delineated by thestanding language. Paradoxically, though, this inclusion is made possible through a straightening out ofexperience, which means that not all relations are elicited in the standing language: mothers who have lostsomeone through the occurrence of a violent event figure as an elicited form of suffering, whereas wives whoare only marked by absence are eclipsed. As such it seems that the criterion of relation is of less significancethan is that of the event. In an attempt to understand not only the work of the criteria in the standinglanguage but their internal relation too, the following part represents a shift from the level of discourse to thatof funding as an area in which the standing language also flourishes.III.IV The Criterion of ImmediacyWith the ensuing analysis of an example of a donor–beneficiary relationship in the field of psychosocialinterventions in the occupied territory, I take a step further in teasing out the criteria that resonate acrossdifferent ways of knowing suffering in the occupied territory. In doing so I investigate which registers ofsuffering defy acknowledgement and how this is interwoven with notions of value, loss and gendered being.Priority in allocating grants is given to projects providing direct medical, psychological, social,economic, legal, humanitarian, educational or other forms of assistance, to torture victims and73


members of theirfamily who, due to their close relationship with the victim, were directly affected at the timeof the event. (United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture 2007, my emphases)Before analysing the notion of suffering present in this extract from the funding guidelines of the UnitedNations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (hereafter UNVFVT), some points of clarification regardingthe Fund are needed. Alongside the European Union, the UNVFVT is a major, global donor in terms offunding centres that offer assistance to torture victims and their families. In their 2007 round of funding, theUNVFTV had a total budget of USD 9 million. According to its guidelines, this donor normally funds up toone third of a project for victims and families and up to two thirds in cases of emergency or if the project orcentre belongs to a so-called priority region. The criteria for receiving funds, as stated in the above extract,were underlined in conversations I had with two members of staff from the Fund in Geneva. Such criteriaformed the basis for the evaluation of applications and, as the two staff members stated, they continuouslymade these criteria clear when they had meetings on missions to visit or evaluate beneficiaries. One thing thathad to be stressed over and over again was that the assistance must be directly allocated to the actual victims oftorture.During my stay at the Prisoners’ Support Centre, I participated in meetings between the centre andtheir current and potential donors. One such occasion was a meeting between the Palestinian Centre and arepresentative from the UNVFVT. The communications manager of the Centre initiated the meeting with along PowerPoint presentation displaying numbers of violations and of people treated at the Centre over thelast years. According to the tables and graphs, an increasingly large number of their clients were the relatives ofdetainees and martyrs. The presentation ended with a few pictures displaying the physical wounds on thebodies of torture victims, dead children and crying mothers. After the presentation, there was a discussionregarding some uncertainties about who the clients of the organisation actually were. The representative fromthe UNVFTV said, ‘I need numbers of how many of your beneficiaries that are actually torture survivors ordirect family’, to which the director firmly replied, ‘All of them are survivors of torture – they are captives inIsrael! This point was not given any further attention during the remainder of the meeting, for which therepresentative had only a little time. However, the representative of the fund repeatedly stressed in front of theemployees of the organisation, thatIt is important that when you make projects for the families, it has to be families who were directlyaffected. For example, ordinary domestic violence is not torture or to be directly related to it. Itdoes not count.After the meeting I chatted with the representative of the Fund, who said that she was impressed with theorganisation’s work and their reflections about the difficulties in doing the kind of work the organisationundertakes.Taking seriously how both Palestinian and global notions of suffering ‘fold, bend, blend emulsifyand dissolve’ (Connolly 2005: 870), I followed the representative of the Fund out of the occupied territoryand met two of its staff members at its European headquarters. I asked them who the direct victims are who74


are affected at the time of the event, to which they answered: ‘No one can distinguish between someone whois tortured and the one who witnesses torture’.From this expression and the meeting just described between the Fund and the Prisoners’ SupportCentre, it appears that both the Fund and its beneficiaries are used to working within and around thecomplexity and necessity of making intricate distinctions. Pondering over the relationship between theconversation and the Fund’s allocation criteria, there are at least two points of convergence that resonatebetween the two lines of differentiation here: the language of the European donor, and the PalestinianCentre’s mode of expressing the suffering of their clients, the detainees and their families. The two convergingpoints elicited in the lines of differentiation are those of relation and immediacy. The converging point ofrelation is reflected in the stress in the Fund representative’s statement that a relation to either the event oftorture through witnessing it or by ‘being directly connected’ to the torture victim are the most significantcriteria for the Fund to allocate funding to a project. For the Prisoners’ Support Centre, the importance ofrelation shows through the sheer numbers of their clients, who include the relatives of torture survivors as amajor client population. Emphasising a relationship to the torture victim or the detainee is thus a way ofcounting that client population among the deserving victims through a language of secondary victimhood orsecondary traumatisation.In tandem with this, a converging point of immediacy also features. This point is referred to by therepresentatives of the Fund, and it saturates invocation of the terms ‘direct’ and ‘directness’ in the UNVFVTguidelines. The word ‘direct’ cuts across having undergone an event of torture, limited in time and space, toinsisting that a relation to that event must be ‘direct’. Immediacy is expressed by the Prisoners’ Support Centrethrough the director’s outburst that imprisonment equals torture and through the graphic portrayal ofphysical wounds, lost limbs and crying faces in the PowerPoint presentation. This confirms Allen’s claim thatcurrently permeating Palestinian political discourse and social relation is a ‘politics of immediation’ (2009:163). The politics of immediation is as stated an affect-driven discourse embedded in the Palestinians’ call forthe world to give its attention to the immediacy of suffering, to the visceral aspects of the conflict, by insistingthat images of amputated limbs and fragmented bodies be displayed in the international media. Displayingthe human body is a way of eschewing the mediating instances that are perceived to blur the message of thehumanness of the Palestinians (Allen 2009). Allen thus confirms Mehl’s argument of the dynamic betweenmedia and its receivers in showing suffering to an audience eager to express empathy (Mehl in Fassin andRechtman 2009: 194). The importance ascribed to immediacy is also seen in the following account of acommunity meeting:Inside the cooling walls of the women’s part of the mosque of Dar Khalidi, a social counsellor sits on the floorwith twenty or so women gathered closely around her. The social counsellor is in her late thirties, and shepresents herself as a pious woman who cares about the well-being of women and children. She works for theDetainees’ Support Centre. The time is just past eleven o’ clock in the morning, the midday sun is about topeak, and heavy sighs are audible in the room about impatience with the latecomers, the atmosphere ofenduring the fast of ar-Ramadan and curious looks around to see who else from the village may have turned upto a women’s meeting about crisis and ‘trauma’. The counsellor opens the meeting by introducing the centre75


and its services, after which she says: ‘I want to start with a new subject today: ’Azme [crisis]. I want to knowwhat a me [shock] means to you? When we say ‘this woman is having a hard time’. Let’s see what it means.But please, one by one’.Woman 1: It’s the same crisis for all of us.Counsellor: Then what does it mean? One by one – I don’t want you all to speak at the same time.Woman 2: A disaster.Counsellor: Yes.Woman 3: It means that someone has problems and worries.Counsellor: Yes, please listen to each other. Rawan, what does crisis means to you?Rawan: Big problems and hard situations.Woman 4: Multiple-storey house.Woman 5: Mašākil fi d-dār [Problems in the house (home).]Counsellor: Let me tell you what ’Azme [crisis] or a me [shock] mean: if I knock on your door,how will you respond to that? You will open the door, right? It’s a reaction to a particular event.When I knock on the door, you will respond to this action by reacting to this event.Woman 6: It’s like a question and an answer.Counsellor: No, it’s not question and answer, it’s a reaction to a particular event. Is that clear? Likethe example I mentioned before about the door, it’s so simple. For example, we are sitting in thismosque now, everything is normal, and we suddenly hear that the Israeli soldiers are storming yourhouses, what would happen to us? We will have a reaction, so crisis is a reaction to a particularevent. Who else has something to say? Imm Amjad, tell us what happened when you got the newsthat your son had been killed?Imm Amjad: Oh, you want me to cry now?Counsellor: You will feel better if you cry.Imm Amjad: At that time it was the 20 th day of Ramadan, so I was fasting and praying all the time.So on that day when they killed him, my brother came to tell me about it, he was telling gradually,he told me that my son was in the hospital, so I asked him why, and he told me that the Israelis hadshot him. After that he went out for a while and he came back, he informed me that he had died. Itold him, please ask them again, maybe you are not sure, or someone told you that he died, but weare not sure. Let’s wait to be sure, but he told me, to be sure, and that he saw him. Then I felt like Iwas unable to stand up, I couldn’t even cry. But at the same time, I was saying that everyone wishesto die as a martyr, so my son got it and I shouldn’t feel bad. Thank God anyway. People came andvisited me.The session continued for an hour, with more women narrating a violent event, a case of loss or everydaynuisances in their lives, such as Mašākil fi d-dār (problems in the house or home) addressed by woman 5, areference to problems with the family or family-in-law.As appears from the meeting in the mosque, the hardship of the women is mostly phrased in a76


language of acute crisis or shock. Moreover, their experiences are represented by the counsellor as related tothe onset of an event to which the women respond with immediate affect. The therapist’s decision to focus ona woman who lost her son to martyrdom is emblematic of how the call for immediacy, event and relationpermeates a so-called psychosocial intervention. I also take this instance as pointing to the forms of sufferingthat are included in the language of knowing suffering, but which seems again to have been eclipsed bysuffering that is direct, visceral and delineated in time and space. Locating the therapeutic intervention in thesocial sphere of a mosque, as well as the fact that the session is headed by a therapist who is more of acommunity-oriented counsellor than a therapist trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy shows howWestern psychology resonates so well with Palestinian understandings of suffering that no one notices thealternation between the two.The converging point of immediacy is an expression of the assumption that an event occurs in amoment; it is directly experienced by a victim or a witness, and it can only be ameliorated by directpsychological, medical, psychosocial or legal assistance. An analysis of discourses of suffering and of thefunding of its amelioration shows the three criteria on which the acknowledgement of suffering is based: theevent; the immediacy of its happening and delineation in time and space; and lastly the relation to either aviolent event, through having experienced it oneself, or to a violent event through a relation to a person towhom such an event occurred. The above analysis of how knowing suffering is actualised through the threecriteria shows that it is not only those who have experienced violence or torture directly who are included inthe standing language of knowing suffering. Also included through the category of ‘the secondary victim’ arethose whose experiences are related to an event through kinship or marriage, yet are devoid of the immediacyof violent events.A person whose experiences are included in this manner in the category of ‘the secondary victim’ isAmina. She participated in the group for detainee’s wives described earlier in the chapter. Amina was presentwhen the Israeli army detained her husband eight years ago in their home. But because her husband is notdead but has only been detained, she has neither witnessed his death nor the torture he may have beenexposed to in the prison. Meanwhile, she has lost her house, the family home, which was destroyed due to herhusband’s violent acts of resistance against Israel. She raises their four girls, lives with her mother and sister,and is under close surveillance by the community of the village due to her being married yet living as a singlewoman. Amina is a secondary victim because her husband is in prison. But does her actual experience matchthe criteria of event, immediacy and relation? Through inclusion in the category of secondary victim, Amina’slife, like the situation described in the mosque, is translated by counsellors, therapists and psychosocialinterventions so that it maps on to how suffering in the occupied territory is known, namely through relationto a violent event or as being a direct victim of an immediate event. Amina’s case thus represents an encounterbetween an apparently inclusive standing language and an experience that does not match the criteria onwhich this language rests. On this basis, I argue, Amina’s case implies what, inspired by Cavell, I denoted as amisreading or straightening out of experience so that it matches the criteria necessary to know and toacknowledge it.The misreading is actualised because the criteria that constitute the standing language are imbuedwith images that elicit the eventfulness of violence, how it occurs immediately and also how some forms of77


elations intrinsically contain more suffering than others, as is the case in the difference between a mother’sloss and a wife’s experience of an absent husband. It appears that understandings of suffering underlying thestanding language resonate with how physical injury was known in the wake of al-Intifā a al-awwal. Thislends support to what Dr Nejmeh claimed in his account of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the occupiedterritory, namely that the boundary between how we think of physical injury and mental reactions was andcontinues to be permeable. How this permeability circulates elsewhere than in discourse and funding willappear in the ensuing analysis of how the standing language saturates therapeutic intervention.III.V The Standing Language of Knowing Suffering in Therapeutic PracticeFinally I attend to how the standing language works in therapeutic practice. My argument is that not only dothis language and its constitutive criteria circulate, in fact they mould and reinforce some forms of suffering assimultaneously included in or excluded from the standing language, albeit in an equivocal manner. Theargument is made through a return to the way in which the therapist Muna speaks about her clients. She wasthe Palestinian counsellor with whom I opened the chapter and with whom I discussed the CognitiveBehavioural Therapy she applied to her therapeutic group earlier in the chapter. The first instance I refer to isfrom a conversation that took place late in my fieldwork after I had participated in the group therapy sessionsfacilitated by Muna for the five wives of detainees, the group to which Amina belongs. The second part of thissection is devoted to an analysis of the opening vignette of this chapter.One afternoon I asked Muna to let me know the difference between the widows of aš-šuhada’ (themartyrs) and the wives of al-asra’ (the detainees):The martyr’s widow knows that her husband is dead and that she has to continue her life withouthim. But the captives’ wives, they are under the pressure of the society, and from the captivesthemselves, because they left her to deal with all the responsibilities at home, and they don’t knowhow she feels and if she has problems. The wife just has to wait for her husband, maybe forever. Heis not dead, and he is not with her.Muna ponders the category of secondary victim, comprising both the widows of aš-šuhada’ and the wives ofal-asra’. At a first glance their experiences seem similar. In Muna’s description, however, it appears that thedifferences between them belong to a temporal register. A widow’s loss of her martyred husband follows thelinear structure of event, emotional response and aftermath – the temporal structure that underlies thestanding language. In contrast, Muna describes the experiences of the detainees’ wives as an enduring but nonlinearsituation of pressure, uncertainty and not least an obligation to stay loyal throughout their husband’sincarceration. It was the gap between the experiential realms of the detainees’ wives and the method of therapythat she employed to alleviate their suffering that made her pose the question to the trainers during theworkshop described in the opening vignette: what could she do therapeutically with regard to Amina, whodid not feel better after several months of therapy?In order to unpack the conversation between Muna and the trainers that opens this chapter, Irevisit the trainers’ assertion that feeling victimised equals feeling isolated and disconnected from others. This78


statement assumes that, if Amina connects with the world, including her husband, by telling them how shefeels, she will get better. The trainer moreover interpreted Amina’s case in the following way: ‘She reacts likeshe expects her husband to prefer that she is not OK’. This framing of Amina’s feeling of victimisation locatesthe reason for her distress in her presumed feeling that her husband does not want her to be OK. Tentatively,the trainers’ words may allude to a failure on part of the trainer himself to acknowledge that the circumstancesmaking up Amina’s life might actually be enough for her to feel anguished, irrespective of whether herhusband agrees. If we recall the criterion of an event for being included in the standing language, the trainer’scomment resonates with precisely this: his last words to Muna are that ‘she is not staying the same; lifechanges’. Implicitly the trainer is comparing Amina’s situation with that of her husband. Seen in that light,Amina is out of prison, whereas her husband is the one whose liberty has been taken away. The words of thetrainer therefore suggest that Amina has the liberty to change and to break free of her victimisation, whereasher husband is the one who is still suffering from a violent event, namely his incarceration. The point made isthat he has a legitimate claim to be suffering, whereas Amina has to move on with her life.The teacher’s assertion that things change and that Amina is free to move on resonates further withthe criterion of immediacy, of a traumatic event that is limited in time and space. Framing suffering within atemporal register of event and immediacy, there is an assumption in the teacher’s advice to Muna that sufferingterminates at some point. Victimisation is thus presented as an event that ends and subsequently slides intothe past. This is reminiscent of a point made earlier in the chapter, namely that one of the criteria to befulfilled in the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is having experienced a traumatic event. Seen inthis light, Amina can be said to be showing the symptoms of a disorder, but she lacks a traumatic event tolegitimise how she is affected.Returning to Muna’s description of the difference between the widows of martyrs and the wives ofdetainees, as well as her breakdown during the role play, she concludes that, for the detainees’ wives as opposedto the martyrs’ widows, there is no event and that the wife of a detainee is socially expected to remainunchanged. This is part of the national ethos that stresses the sacrifices made for the Palestinian cause (Nashif2008; Allen 2006, 2007, 2009). Within this ethos, Amina’s marriage to a detainee renders unconditional bothher support and her loyalty not only to her husband, but also to the Palestinian struggle for a state. Here, thetwo resonating discourses – global psychological discourse and the Palestinian meta-narrative respectively –diverge in terms of what is considered the most desirable reaction to a difficult situation: change or endurance.The two discourses also diverge in the sense that for Amina the connection to suffering is her relationship withher husband in prison. This is not the connection assumed in the sentence ‘directly affected by the time of theevent’. Rather, it is a connection that is part of Amina’s everyday life, a connection that, during her husband’sdetention, is saturated by absence. The absence in respect of Amina’s marital connection is what engenders heraffective mode of distress, thus pointing to the dissonance between women with Amina’s experience and thestanding language of suffering that is available to know and address her distress.Embodying at the same time the resonances between the therapeutic and nationalist modes offraming suffering, Muna, by posing the question regarding Amina’s claim to victimhood to the teachers, doesnot acknowledge Amina as a ‘legitimate’ victim. Amina is presented as too much. Muna’s representation ofAmina’s case is bifurcated, first, because her position is simultaneously that of a therapist trained to think79


within a psychological mode of reasoning, and secondly, because of her status as a Palestinian who thinks,although reflexively, about her different clients within the national notions of suffering outlined earlier. Thatthese two resonating lines at times converge and at times diverge shows in Muna’s reply when I asked herwhether there was a difference in the suffering of being detained and of being related to a detainee: thedetainee suffers the most, she said, after which she listed various examples of physical abuse and ‘torture’.It is not until Muna breaks down that she thinks differently. At this point she feels the excess ofsuffering that is not supposed to be there. The reason for this discrepancy, I suggest, is that, whereas Amina isincluded in the standing language in respect of her relationship with her husband, her experiences fail thecriteria of both event and immediacy. This takes us back to the internal connection among the three criteria, aconnection that explains why Amina is not supposed to feel like a victim, despite her apparent inclusion in thestanding language: the criterion of relation is an optional criterion, whereas the temporal criteria of event andimmediacy are in fact obligatory. This is why Amina’s experience is not fully acknowledged in the standinglanguage, nor by Muna as a therapist and a Palestinian.We can think of the moment of Muna’s identification with Amina as an instant where Muna readsAmina and thus understands her. By allowing herself to read Amina’s experience, Muna comes to know itdifferently than from the standing language that is available to know and acknowledge suffering. The fact thatMuna acknowledges rather than only knows Amina’s distress is exemplary of the slight difference between thetwo pointed out by Cavell. Acknowledgement requires a moral inclination to act upon one’s knowledge,which is what Muna does by addressing it during the course, yet not least by breaking down when sherecognises her lack of means to affect change in Amina (cf. Cavell 1969: 263). My answer to the questionraised in this chapter of why Muna cries is that she cries at the point where the fog of the standing languagelifts to reveal the nature of suffering as the slow grinding of Amina’s lived life, a grind so finely textured that itslips the criteria that have been put in place to know and acknowledge it. As will appear in the remainder ofthe thesis, rather than being out of place, Amina’s feelings reflect the unsettling, continuous situation that is astructural predicament for all the women who are married to long-term detainees in the occupied territory.III.VI ConclusionI have analysed the standing language through which Palestinian suffering is known, emphasising how thislanguage simultaneously elicits and eclipses aspects of the sufferings of the wives of detainees in Israel. I havedone so based on the contention that this is a prolific analytical perspective due to how this language mouldshow others, whether neighbours, therapists, European donors or mothers-in-law, perceive the women’s lives.Investigating what I, following Fassin and Rechtman (2009), have termed global psychological discoursebased on trauma as the contemporary currency of suffering, I have argued how, rather than opposingPalestinian notions of suffering, the global, psychological discourse resonates with these notions at the pointswhere the two lines of differentiation – the Palestinian meta-narrative, and global psychological discourse –converge in mutual comprehension of what counts as legitimate suffering. Further, I have argued that thesepoints of convergence are event, immediacy and relation. Fassin and Rechtman contend that the framing ofviolent events within a Palestinian narrative of suffering brought about by heroic acts clashes with ideas ofsuffering as trauma (2009: 198). Conversely, based on ethnographic analysis I argue that they converge. The80


difference in argument is brought out by analysing the lines of differentiation at diverging points. FollowingDeleuze, my premise is that dualism exists, but only in an instant in order to converge again (Deleuze 1988:28). Researching the same theme but with results diverging from Fassin and Rechtman is therefore a matter ofthe different centre of gravity of my own study compared to theirs. Fassin and Rechtman were based in Europewith the organisations Medecins sans Frontiers and Medecins du Monde (Fassin and Rechtman 2009),whereas I took up multiple positions in the encounter between therapeutic intervention and everyday life inthe occupied territory.The dissonance displayed between the standing language and how suffering is lived will figurethroughout the thesis. The present chapter tentatively proposes that the essence of this dissonance is that,although it includes the lives of detainee’s wives in the standing language through the notion of secondaryvictimhood, this language fails to acknowledge the full range of the women’s everyday, non-spectacular, nonevent-basedsufferings and experiences. According to Cavell, a failure of acknowledgement is not aconsequence of the absence of knowledge (1988: 262). Rather, it is a denial of the other as a human being, adenial of the other as me (1979: 480). The failure to know detainee’s wives as ‘others that could be me’ lies inhow the criteria mentioned for knowing suffering – relation, immediacy and event – do not belong to thesame registers. Whereas the criterion of a relation is optional and allows the detainees’ wives into the standinglanguage in the first place, the criteria of event and immediacy are obligatory. The case of Amina illustratedhow, by fulfilling only the criterion of relation, her suffering cannot be acknowledged because she fails theobligatory criteria of event and immediacy. The dissonance between these criteria and Amina’s experience canbe found in the difference of temporal structures that underlie the notions of suffering in respectively thestanding language and the affliction Amina lives. In accordance with this, I argue that the standing languagecan only know, not also acknowledge, Amina’s feeling of enduring victimisation. Amina’s suffering becameboth known and acknowledged the instant her therapist Muna let go of the standing language and allowedherself to let Amina’s life happen to her. As Cavell suggests, ‘imagining having other’s feelings is not aboutincorporating them but rather allowing yourself to be reincorporated, to be the other’ (ibid.).This chapter has shown how the acknowledgement of suffering that does not fit into how afflictionis normally known requires a shift from a visual register based on distance and objective diagnostic to anaffective register without the comforting distance of scientific terminology. Das has coined this alternatevision in the image of the eye not as an organ that sees, but as an organ that weeps (Das 2007: 62). On thisnote I now turn to a description of the texture of the kind of affliction that is overlooked if evaluated on thebasis of event, relation and immediacy rather than by Das’s alternate vision of the organ that weeps.81


Chapter IVDomestic Uncanniness: Homely Loss and Unhomely AbsenceAs the place where guests are welcomed, as–salon (the living room) is a significant space in a Palestinianhousehold. A lot of effort and resources go into decorating this room, since it serves to represent the family, itsrelative prosperity and not least its ability to receive guests. As elsewhere in the Middle East (Bille 2010,Shryock 2004, Abu-Lughod 1986 [2000], 1993), hospitality is a key value in the occupied territory, no matterwhat a family’s circumstances. The way the living room is arranged expresses how a family wishes its guests toperceive them.For families who either temporarily or permanently have an absent male member, it becomesparticularly pertinent to arrange the expressions emanating from as-salon carefully through a graphic displayof the absent figure. The arrangement of the living room in the house of a young female interlocutor, Nadia,will serve as a poignant image. Nadia’s salon is located to the right of the hallway in her flat, which is a newextension of her family-in-law’s house, situated in a quiet area of Bāb aš-šams. In as-salon two grandiose, plushsofas dominate the walls, and across the biggest of them are two chairs made of the same material in black,cream and gold. A small coffee table occupies the middle of the room, which is moderately airy due to the thincurtains hanging in front of the two windows close to the ceiling. Whether fitted out with expensive furnitureor cheap copies that are sold along the approach roads to Bāb aš-šams, a salon such as Nadia’s crystallises amodel Palestinian living room. Aside from the sheer size and pomposity of the furniture, the décor of Nadia’stidy living room is dominated by one thing in particular: a 100 x 80 cm poster in a gold frame occupying onecorner. The photostat displays a portrait of a young man in profile posing for the camera. He is wearing acombat uniform, holding an AK-47, the most common weapon in the occupied territory and usedthroughout al-Intifā a al-awwal and al-Intifā a al-Aqsa. The background to the photostat is a clear, bluewaterfall set among rocky cliffs and green pine trees. Easy to miss, in the lower right hand corner of thephotostat there is a passport-size photo of another man, a simple portrait, showing only his face. The bigphoto displays Nadia’s first husband, who was killed by Israeli soldiers and who is therefore considered to be ašahīd (a martyr). The smaller photo is of Nadia’s second husband, her late husband’s brother, who is a asīr (adetainee), sentenced to twenty-two years in an Israeli prison. The contrast in size and ornamentation betweenthe two photos of Nadia’s former and present husbands and the location of these national objects in the heartof a Palestinian home is a material expression of my concern in this chapter.The difference between al-asīr and aš-šahīd will serve as a centre of gravity in order to documentprecisely what it is that escapes the standing language with regard to the suffering of the detainees’ wives.Making the difference between al-asīr and aš-šahīd, one point of the inquiry rests on how, as described in theprevious chapter, the detainees’ wives are included in the standing language through the proxies of sufferingthat mark the life of the widow of a šahīd. In contrast to this, I will show that in the West Bank the absence ofa husband is perceived in radically different ways, depending on the duration and character of his absence.Providing a backdrop is therefore the preceding chapter’s conclusion that the criterion of an event is a key forknowing and acknowledging suffering in the occupied territory. Intrinsic to this criterion is the assumptionthat suffering results from a violent event followed by an aftermath when life becomes ordinary again.82


The aim of this chapter is to ponder how the affective configuration of an ordinary unfolds for thedetainees’ wives who figured in the previous chapter as secondary victims. The notion of affect allows ananalysis of how feelings are configured with regard to how Palestinians are supposed to respond tobereavement and incarceration according to the Palestinian meta-narrative and how those who are subject tothat configuration experience this. The chapter offers a potential reading for ethnography of Massumi’sdefinition of affect as ‘to affect and to be affected’ (Massumi in Deleuze and Guattari 1987: xvi). Withreference to Tobias Kelly and Sharika Thiranagama’s study of treason globally, my analysis highlights ‘thetension among intimate personal relationships, the demands of the states, and the hard moral choices thatthese produce’ (Kelly and Thiranagama 2010: 1).The affective configuration of the ordinary for the wives of asra’ is examined in comparison with thewidows of šuhada. I propose that the difference between being the wife of a detainee or the widow of a martyrcan be summed up as different configurations of affect that rest on how absence and loss are folded into theintimacy of practices that appear ordinary. For the wives of detainees, I argue that this difference is an uncannyalteration as easy to miss as the photo of Nadia’s second husband in the corner of the photostat.IV.I The Domestic as a site of the OrdinaryThe above argument unfolds through an analysis of ethnographic data from the domestic sphere. The chaptercontemplates the domestic as a site of the ordinary and how people sustain the domestic in the wake ofviolence. Underlying the chapter is Das’s writing about the ordinary when the memory and potential ofviolence spill over into the everyday (Das 2007). Das’s work is based primarily on her studies of how theevents of the partition between India and Pakistan, as well as the 1984 assassination of Indira Gandhi, werefolded into the everyday through practices, containment and silence (Das et al. 2000, 2001; Das 2007).Through her analysis, she counters the critique of studies of the ordinary as resting on a presumption aboutthe everyday as redemptive aftermath per se (Blom Hansen, Lecture 29/8/2009, Denmark). That this is hardlyso is brought home by Goodfellow and Mulla in their analysis of compelling intimacies and the way in whichthe sphere of the domestic is less a safe haven of protection than something that is always already folded intoviolence and politics (Goodfellow and Mulla 2008). Suffering as ordinary, rather than as an event befalling asubject, nonetheless poses a challenge to anthropology: how should we conceptualise suffering without themoment of original violence to provide a beginning and an end?The occupied territory poses an interesting site in which to ponder such issues. Palestine as a nationstate has never existed. A brief historical 43 outline will convey the permanence of unsettledness that is closelyinterlinked with the violence in the area. Prior to their contemporary occupation by Israel, the Palestinianswere ruled by a series of foreign governments. Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I,the League of Nations handed over Mandate Palestine (present-day Israel, Gaza and the West Bank) to43 With reference to footnote 4, I am aware that this outline is brief and basic and that the aspects mentioned of theIsraeli-Palestinian conflict continue to be a most contentious field. This outline takes as its backdrop the NewIsraeli Historians’ view of the history of the Palestinian area from 1947 to present as presented by Israeli historianIlan Pappé (cf. Pappe 2004, 2006). Fundamental to the New Israeli Historians’ view is, for instance, the fact thatthe Arabs did not, as hitherto presented in Israeli history, move voluntarily from the areas that are now Israeli, butrather were forced to do so by the Israeli army (Pappé 2006).83


Britain, which governed the area until 1948 (Pappé 2004). In 1947 the newly formed United Nations devisedits so-called Partition Plan for Palestine, which allocated 56 percent and 42 percent of Mandate Palestine tothe area’s Jewish and Arab populations respectively. On 14 May 1948 David Ben Gurion, head of the JewishAgency and de facto leader of Palestine's Jews, proclaimed the state of Israel. In the war that ensued betweenIsrael and Arab forces from five neighbouring countries – known to the Israelis as ‘the War of Independence’and to the Palestinians as al-Nakba (the Catastrophe) – Israel claimed the territory that comprises present-dayIsrael excluding the occupied territory, in total 78 percent of Mandate Palestine, with Egypt occupying theGaza Strip and Jordan occupying what is today known as the West Bank with the alleged aim of founding anew Arab state, Palestine (Pappé 2004). In the so-called Six-Day War in 1967 Israel, gained control of theGaza Strip and the West Bank, which it has occupied ever since. The so-called Oslo Accords of 1993 markedan attempt – if a highly disputed one – to settle the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Emblematicof the enduring temporariness of the conflict is the official name of the Oslo Accords: ‘Interim Agreement onthe West Bank and the Gaza Strip or Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement’ (Pappé 2004; Segal 2003: 114).This history entails a non-linear permanency to how life is lived in the occupied territory (seeKublitz [forthcoming] for an elaboration of this point). It is this permanency of latent conflict that requires atheoretical framework that does not hinge on violence on the one hand, and the ordinary or aftermath on theother hand. Whereas violent events such as shootings and aerial bombings indeed take place in the occupiedterritory, I argue that they are not what form the everyday for the majority of the population. Although theynever quite cease, such events tend to be concentrated around time-limited periods of Israeli militaryincursions, such as those that took place during al-Intifā a al-awwal, al-Intifā a al-Aqsa and most recently inGaza during the winter of 2009. As Kelly has described, for most Palestinians the everyday is permeated byconfronting, negotiating and trying to work around Israeli, bureaucratic procedures, restrictions on mobilityand the constant suspicion that one is a terrorist (Kelly 2006: 2007). These practices may seem extraordinary,yet in the occupied territory they are built into the ordinary.It is the to-be-expected nature of such repetitive practices of what I term structural violence 44 thatmakes the notion of the ordinary poignant to the present analysis. My premise is that the ordinary does notexist a priori but is actualised through lines of differentiation (Das 2007: 7). The Palestinian term ādi(normal, ordinary) and the way it is escorted by a shrug in any such instances is emblematic of what can betaken to belong to the ordinary in the occupied territory. The ordinary may have the potential for beingredemptive, and there is no doubt that this is partly the case for my interlocutors. It is nonetheless permeatedwith something existing in parallel with it.A term apt to capture this otherness built into the ordinary is Freud’s notion of the uncanny.Conceptualising the uncanny, Freud draws on the German terms heimlich (homely) and unheimlich(unhomely). By referring to the unhomely as what was once homely, Freud captures how the homely and theunhomely form part of each other, each being the other’s shadow.The uncanny is a versatile term with which to comprehend the configuration of affect in the44 In this context, my assumption is that structural violence in the occupied territory rests on two interrelated pillars:the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the dysfunction of the Palestinian government (Giacaman, Mataria, Stefanini,Naidoo, Kowal and Chatterji 2004).84


ordinary of the families who are the focus of my research. In anthropology (Laura Bear 2007: DortheBrogaard Kristensen 2007), the uncanny has appeared as a means to conceptualise the intersection of kinship,memory and rupture. The uncanny has been used to connote repressed collective memories of violence inChile (Brogaard Kristensen 2007) and as means to ponder the effect on kinship of the slow but steadyuprooting of families resulting from working on the Indian railways (Bear 2007). To Bear the uncannycomprises ghosts as domestic appearances that occur in the wake of romantic nationalism (2007: 55).My use of the uncanny is not intended to connote the return of repressed memories, nor is it ameans to understand the relationship between the dead and the living. I evoke the uncanny as what issimultaneously familiar and unfamiliar in order to comprehend lives that appear ordinary but are configuredaround the absence of an incarcerated husband. Cavell states the following about absence:The beginning of skepticism is the insinuation of absence, of a line, or limitation, hence the creationof want, or desire: the creation, as I have put it, of the interpretation of metaphysical finitude asintellectual lack (1988: 51)Whereas this quote refers to skepticism as the philosopher’s doubt that he can trust his knowledge, I take therelation between skepticism and absence as an invitation to ask whether skepticism is present in the familieswhose relations, everyday structure and concerns are configured through the enduring, non-linear absence of adetained husband. The aim of my ethnographic engagement with the ordinary is to ponder these issues. Theintersection of the ordinary, the duration of uncanniness and the affect it configures are key to understanding,as Freud asks: ‘under what conditions (can) the familiar (…)become uncanny and frightening’ (Freud 1919(2003) 124)? On this premise, I venture to demonstrate how affect is configured in the domestic sphere of thefamilies of both al-asīr and as-šahīd.IV.II Heroic Politics: The Difference between aš-šahīd and al-asīr(1) ‘Open your arms you Qassam people because you are the heroes(2) Detainees, martyrs and injured, a revolution with a flame of struggle(3) From Nafha 45 the victory was, it is like a stone of will and persistence(4) And everyone can see how strong we can be(5) Oh you who can go to al-Jalboo 46 , please pass our salam to our beloved detainees(6) Our hunger and sufferance will continue forever till we see free Palestine’This verse is from a song entitled ’al-Asra’ (the detainees). It was written by a detainee in an Israeli prison(Ayman Ramadan 2005). In line 6 praise is given to those who have given their lives for the struggle for a freePalestine, valorising the suffering they endure to achieve it. The praise for the Palestinian resistance fighters,put in what appears to be portentous language (line 2), can only be understood in the context of the historical45An Israeli prison known to be the highest security prison in the Negev desert.46An Israeli prison located near Lake Tiberia in the north of Israel (Appendix I)85


and current situation in the occupied territory. Middle East scholar Sara Roy has termed these circumstances astate of ‘de-development’ (2001, 2007). The term defines Israel’s policies of closure and restriction of access toexport and infrastructure as a process aimed at bringing the Palestinian economy to a standstill. One result ofthis is a poverty rate of 58 percent in the occupied territory in 2006 (UNDP 2007: 2). With a lack of financialmeans to secure either education or migration, social status and upward mobility are difficult to achieve unlessone participates in activities that counters the Israeli occupation and its pressures on Palestinian economic,social and political life (Allen 2006). Accordingly, acts of both non-violent and violent resistance pave the wayto national, local and domestic acknowledgement (cf. Khalili 2007). Among people who have sacrificed theirlives, hopes and personal well-being in the national struggle for a state, the most significant categories are aššahīdand al-asīr (Nashif 2008: 19). Because it is the relatives, and primarily the wives of al-asra’ whoconstitute my subject matter, it is pertinent to describe the political affect invested in aš-šahīd and al-asīrrespectively.Aš-šuhada’ and al-asra’ stand out in respect of their heroic deeds and extraordinary suffering, eventhough all Palestinians consider themselves to be living and suffering due to the occupation (Khalili 2007:107). However, not all forms of affliction are considered equally torturous or worthy of attention in nationaldiscourse. A possible way to conceive of this is through medical anthropologist Paul Farmer’s term ‘a hierarchyof suffering’ (Farmer 1997, 2003), in which infringements such as death or detention in Israeli prisons arepivotal (Butler 2004; Allen 2009, 2006). The place of martyrs and detainees at the top of such a hierarchymirrors the Palestinian situation, in which the most honourable activity a man, and to a lesser extent a woman,can undertake are so-called ‘operations’ of resistance to the Israeli occupation (Nashif 2008: 25). It is thisaspect of the Palestinian meta-narrative that is instantiated in the above verse from the song ‘al-Asra’.The difference between martyrs and detainees is more intricate than the framework of a hierarchyof suffering suggests. Pondering this difference, three aspects may lead us to an understanding of itsconfiguration. I argue that aš-šahīd and al-asīr can be distinguished with regard to religion, temporality andambiguity. The martyr who has lost his life in the struggle for Palestine has made the ultimate sacrifice: his orher life (Khalili 2007). Significantly this is a political sacrifice imbued with a religious vocabulary (MayyJayyusi in Asad 2007: 47). The entanglement of religious and political meaning regarding the Palestinianmartyrs is debated in academia (cf. Johnson 1982), among journalists and by anyone with an interest in thearea. In his discussion of the phenomenon of suicide bombing, the anthropologist Talal Asad describes howthe Palestinian martyrs tend to be misinterpreted as making a religious sacrifice (Asad 2007: 48). Accordingto Islam, martyrdom is not a sacrifice. Aš-šahada (the act of martyrdom) literally means witnessing (ibid.).This meaning of the term may explain why Palestinians often refer to themselves as a collective of aš-šuhada.Following Asad, this mode of self-representation is only meaningful if aš-šuhada are divested of the (mis-)understanding of aš-šahada as sacrifice. As collective witnesses to the Israeli occupation, the Palestinians canaccordingly be understood with an, albeit liberal, reference to Islam (2007: 49). To Asad the death of thePalestinian šuhada constitutes an ultimate act of transgression that reacts to Israeli injustice by transgression ofthe law (2007: 47).My interlocutors nonetheless did invoke aš-šahada (martyrdom) as a religious sacrifice in everydayconversation among each other and with me. In this sense, the notion of sacrifice in the occupied territory86


comprises simultaneously a religious and a national act undertaken in the hope of creating a Palestinian state(Khalili 2007: 114; Allen 2006, Johnson 1982). This dual meaning is significant in order to comprehend thedifference between aš-šahīd and al-asīr. In her studies of the commemoration of heroism among Palestinianrefugees in Lebanon, Khalili notes that, at the onset of the national struggle for a Palestinian state, the fida’yi(guerrilla fighter) was the embodiment of heroism (Khalili 2007: 114). With an increase in violent events inLebanon, among them the infamous massacres at the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Šatila in 1982,this position was taken over by the martyr’s deceased body in its capacity for displaying suffering towards theworld according to the politics of immediation described in Chapter III (Allen 2009). The politics ofimmediation has been called a discourse permeated by human rights, visuality and the call to affect (Allen2009: 262). Within this discourse, the plight of the Palestinians is presented as unmediated, raw, humansuffering in an attempt to appeal to the inclusion of the Palestinians in the category of the universal humanbeing and its right to integrity. The deceased body becomes emblematic of this discourse by way of itdisplaying unintentional victimhood (Khalili 2007: 114).Aš-šahīd and al-asīr are further distinguished through the registers of temporality and closure. For amartyr, his death finalises his life and turns him into a martyr, a transformation that allows him to take on adifferent presence in the social world. A detainee is still alive, simultaneously absent from the domestic sphereand present as a celebrated national figure. Having given his freedom but not his life, his sacrifice does notbelong to the religious register as does that of aš-šahīd. An analogy I encountered in local vernacular was thatof a ladder upon which a šahīd figured at the top and an asīr just below him. As such, Palestinian folktaxonomy resembles Farmer’s hierarchy of suffering.The anthropologist Mamphele Ramphele has written about freedom fighters’ widows in SouthAfrica, claiming that they are ambiguous and liminal figures: ‘The widow in mourning having lost her spouseand yet still considered married is in a special kind of ambiguous, transitional state typically involvingpollution and related beliefs’ (Pauw in Ramphele 1997: 99). In the occupied territory, however, the abovecontext renders aš-šahīd an unequivocal figure, whereas al-asīr remains ambiguous in his detention. Thesociologist Esmail Nashif has described al-asīr as a liminal figure (2008:96). He argues that the liminality ofthe detainee occurs because he is ‘deported from Palestinian society, only to be transplanted into a foreignland/space, and not any space but a liminal one, the prison of the colonial metropolitan’ (2008: 95).The unsettledness intrinsic to the category of the detainee can thus be thought of throughparameters of space and temporality. A detainee’s absence is temporary and spatially undecided due hissimultaneous presence and absence in the world of his relatives. His spatial unsettledness is underlined by thecommon Israeli practice of transferring detainees from one prison to another during incarceration. Theunresolved temporality surrounding a detainee may be illustrated by Israel's widespread use of theadministrative detention of Palestinians, where people are detained in custody without trial for long periodsof time. 47 Even when a sentence is handed down, the detainee's situation is unresolved because of ongoing47http://www.btselem.org/English/Administrative_Detention/87


albeit often-suspended Israeli-Palestinian negotiations regarding the potential release of detainees. 48 There isthus always a hope that a deal between Israel and the Palestinians will bring about the release of one’s son,husband or father. It is because of this that the figure of al-asīr appears unsettled.The ambiguity of an asīr in contrast to a šahīd also rests on the uncertainty concerning what isthought to take place during detention in an Israeli prison. This uncertainty allows people to spread rumoursor to worry or guess whether the detainee has surrendered to the pressure of the interrogators and hasprovided Israel with information, thereby potentially stooping to treachery to the nation (cf. Kelly 2010). AsDas writes, the power of rumour lies in how experiences can come to life through the act of telling (Das 2007:208). Through rumour, the heroism of the detainee may be placed into doubt. As I will describe below, howthe detainee circulates in the region of rumour moulds the status of his wife as simultaneously settled andunsettled too.These potential allegations notwithstanding, a šahīd and an asīr epitomise the heroism of agents inthe struggle for a Palestinian state in a double sense, since they are not only praised in popular nationaldiscourse for having been willing to pay the ultimate price for a greater common good (Allen 2006, Nashif2008). In both local and international discourses of conflict intervention too, aš-šuhada’ and al-asra’ areportrayed as primary victims due to the consequences of death and physical and mental torment due toincarceration or a failed ‘operation’ against Israeli (Salo 2004).Conceptualising the difference between aš-šahīd and al-asīr, these distinguishing features do notdisplay this difference as a gradual matter. In Bergson’s theory, the understanding of ‘difference’ is central.According to Bergson, multiplicities diverge according to either ‘differences in degree’ or ‘differences in kind’ 49(cf. Deleuze 1988: 38). Differences in degree are numerical, exterior and can be juxtaposed; differences in kindrefer to multiplicities contained in duration that, as already noted, belong to the abstract but not unreal realmof the virtual (cf. Deleuze 1999: 264). These differences connote fundamental differences, such as thatbetween time and space, and belong to the realm of the virtual (ibid.). To Bergson, differences in degreepertaining to space are those belonging to the sphere of the actual, the sphere of matter (Bergson 1912[2004]). In this light, the difference between aš-šahīd and al-asīr may seem like a difference in degreeanalogous to the vernacular representation of their difference by way of a ladder.In line with what I have demonstrated above, however, I argue that it is precisely with regard totemporality and spatial presence that the two categories of heroes differ. Temporally, the martyr’s suffering andhis life have ended, and he is gone rather than absent. The detainee, on the other hand, is physically absentfrom his life world, yet he is alive and present through the practices his family engages in to make him48This is exemplified by the rumours of exchange regarding the Israeli war prisoner Ghalit Shalid. At the time ofnegotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in the autumn of 2009, rumours circulated in the Palestinian and regionalmedia that his exchange might release up to one thousand Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. Cf. Maan News: http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=24077349‘It is a multiplicity of exteriority, of simultaneity, of juxtaposition, of order, of quantitative differentiation, ofdifference in degree, it is a numerical multiplicity; discontinuous and actual. The other type of multiplicity appears in pureduration: it is an internal multiplicity of succession, of fusion, of organization, of heterogeneity, of qualitativediscrimination, or of difference in kind: it is a virtual and continuous multiplicity that cannot be reduced tonumbers’ (Deleuze 1988: 38).88


physically present. Spatially the martyr has been transformed from a man into a martyr, whereas the detaineeis still both a man and a husband, albeit an absent presence (Hastrup, Bille and Flohr Sørensen 2010). Againstthis background, I suggest that the difference between aš-šahīd and al-asīr is a difference in kind. They arenon-numerical differentiations on the same virtual line of heroic agency diverging according to both space andtime.Devoting substantial analysis to the difference between aš-šahīd and al-asīr outlines the affectiveconfigurations around aš-šahīd and al-asīr respectively and in comparison. As Strathern states, ethnographicobjects are not exclusively analysed by the ethnographer (Strathern 2004: 25). Rather, every object containsour informants’ analyses already. To comprehend the meaning of an object, the way in which it is analysed bythe people related to it must therefore be taken into consideration. A further insight from Strathern is thatevery object and human being should be understood relationally (Strathern 2004). The analysis of Palestiniancomprehensions of aš-šahīd and al-asīr accordingly provide the context in which to understand what it is inthe experience of being married to a detainee as opposed to being the widow of a martyr that escapes thedominant modes of understanding suffering comprised in the standing language.A point of inquiry in Chapter III was the notion of ‘secondary victimhood’ as used in the global,psychological discourse and the Palestinian meta-narrative about the mothers, wives and children of detaineesand martyrs. In the present chapter, the centre of gravity is these women as the relatives of detainees andmartyrs, with an emphasis on the reverberations of the difference between the two categories of heroes in thewomen’s lives. Focusing on the wives of detainees compared with the widows of martyrs highlights howdifferent registers of absence may serve as significant vehicles of understanding gendered social being in theoccupied territory. My understanding of this draws on the ontological tension between the thesis’s twoincommensurable analytical stances of the conceptualisation of virtual structures, configuration and relationsinformed by Bergson and Deleuze (Bergson 2004; Deleuze 1988; Deleuze 1994) and the analysis of howsuch virtual relations are experienced among the detainees’ wives inspired by Das and Cavell (Das 2007, 2008:199; Cavell 1988, 1979).This raises questions about why a situation in which absence defines a woman’s social presence andexistence, as in the case of the detainees’ wives, is different from a situation in which loss denotes a woman’ssocial presence and existence, as in the case of the martyrs’ widows. We can understand the difference betweenthe respective ways in which detainees’ wives and martyrs’ widows are perceived and live their lives throughthe meaning of loss and absence in the local context. The backdrop for this endeavour is therefore the deepmoral impulses at play in the normative universe of acknowledging affliction, which in Chapter III I termedthe standing language. Also significant here are the affective configurations I have outlined surrounding aššahīdand al-asīr. Understanding the difference of these configurations and how it escapes the standinglanguage may be achieved by looking at how absence materialises in the everyday of the women assimultaneously intangible and tangible presence. Following Carsten in her concern with commemoration inthe sphere of the home (Carsten 2007), I turn to the domestic as the place where social relations are lived,remembered and constituted, thereby stepping through the door of the Palestinian home as a site of personaland impersonal affect implied in being related to the national figures of either aš-šahīd and al-asīr.89


IV.III Politics of Loss between the Personal and the ImpersonalAmong historians and social scientists alike, the occupied territory seems to serve as the crystallisation of aplace in which the past is not past but present (Kublitz forthcoming; Abu-Lughod and Sa’adi 2007). Everypersonal and collective story that is told about loss, violence or death is always already inscribed within thelarger story of the Palestinians as a people defined by their losses: loss of a homeland, loss of concrete homes,loss of family members, loss of human dignity (Khalidi 2007). As already stated, the vital point of this metanarrativeis the 1948 event of ‘al-Nakba’. According to Israeli historian Ilan Pappé, more than 700,000Palestinianswere displaced as a result of the establishment of the Israeli state (2006: xiii). This event hasaffected generations of Palestinians in that ‘al-Nakba’ turned them into the exceptional category of ‘PalestineRefugees’ 50 and entailed the setting up of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugeesin the Near East (UNRWA) (Rubenberg 2003: 13). Loss, bereavement, coping and making sense where thereseems to be none therefore form part of everyday life and discourse in the West Bank. Events of suddendeaths, disappearances and violence are found in all families. Households without a martyr or a detainee arefew and far between. As such, images of widows and mothers mourning the loss of their sons or husbands inthe struggle for a Palestinian state are very present in both local and international media.The public display of mourning is paralleled privately by the families and widows of martyrs.During my fieldwork, they too spoke willingly and extensively about a šahīd. The narrative about a šahīd is anoften-told story about his deeds, the detailed, visceral circumstances of his death (Allen 2009) and theemotionally straining loss of a father or a husband. One such narrative was provided by Nadia’s mother-in-law,who has lived through losing her son to martyrdom and her husband two years ago. In addition, she has threesons incarcerated in Israel. The extract is long, as is characteristic of stories about losing a son:(1) Lotte: Are your family, your father and mother from Bāb aš-šams?(2) Imm Hazem: Yes, actually my father is blind, he is always near the mosque(3) explaining people’s dreams, they come to him and say what they dreamt about and he(4) explains the meanings of these dreams to them.(5) Lotte: Did you have a dream that he explained to you and which came true?(6) Imm Hazem: Yes, when my son Hazem died. I had a dream before my son died, a dream that(7) my father refused to explain to me, the only thing he said about it was ‘something will(8)happen to one member of your family’ and nothing else, he refused to continue… Yes, he(9)refused to say what it meant.(10)Lotte: Do you remember how long ago before your son was killed that you had that(11) dream?(12) Imm Hazem: Two to three weeks, I saw a black angry horse that entered my room and since(13)that time I did not feel good about that dream, I couldn’t feel optimistic at all…. It was the(14)strangest dream of my life, I have not dreamt of anything like it before.50 None of my interlocutors are refugees, which is why I do not discuss issues of refugeehood in this thesis.90


(15) Lotte: Did you know what it meant? Did you have any idea when your father told you that,(16) ‘I don’t want to tell you what it is’, did you then know what it was?(17) Imm Hazem: I felt that something was wrong, but I did not know what it was…. I was always(18) holding the holy Qur’an and said to myself that everything that is going to happen to me(19)is from God and God wrote it for me, and I accept it, and that actually gave me patience(20)and strength to handle all that happened to me.(21) Imm Hazem: When my son died and when they told me that he had been killed I actually did not(22) believe it, but after like a week I started to understand it, I couldn’t cry at that time, my(23) tears simply dried, all I could say was ‘Thank God’.(24) Lotte: I’m so sorry to hear that.(25) Imm Hazem: It’s difficult, but God gives me faith and strength.(26) Imm Hazem: Actually I was more patient than my husband: it influenced him so much,(27)he was so sad and kept all those sad emotions in his heart, because my son never said no to(28)him, he was such a great son who took care of his father and mother, all my sons are, but he(29) was kinder than the others, he never smoked a cigarette, he kept the money to(30) build his house and when he died it wasn’t complete.(31) Lotte: Yes, he was in the middle of his life with his wife and had begun a life with his family.(32) Imm Hazem: Yes that’s true: it was only the start for him and for his wife.(33) Lotte: You were saying that you had a dream that something bad was going to happen, did(34) you know from what your son was doing that he might be imprisoned or die?(35) ‘Uht (sister of ) Hazem: No she didn’t.(36) ‘Uht Hazem: Tell her about the story when you prayed to God that you want to smell ‘the(37)scent of the martyr’ from one of your sons!(38) Imm Hazem: You tell her about that!(39)‘Uht Hazem: When a neighbour was killed by the Israelis, we went to his house to console(40) his mother, there were some napkins that had the martyr smell, that smell was great and(41)when we smelled it, my mother spontaneously prayed to God and said ‘Oh God I wish to(42)smell that beautiful smell from one of my sons’, which means that one of them will be a(43)martyr, and it happened.(44) Imm Hazem: If I knew that it would happen, I would never have said it.(45) Mayy: Well, God made you say that because it’s written for you and to your son.(46) ‘Uht Hazem: Yes, that’s indeed true.(47) Imm Hazem: My sisters-in-law remind me about that incident when my son got killed!(48) Mayy: Lotte, do you know the scent of the martyr.(59) Lotte: No, please tell me.(50) Mayy: Well, we believe in that and it’s really true, that when someone has been killed and(51) he/she becomes a martyr, he/she will have such a great smell, of musk and amber.(52) Lotte: Where does this smell come from?(53) Mayy: Its just there! When he dies he will have that smell, and really, it’s true.91


(54) ‘Uht Hazem: And it is different from the commercial ones that the companies tried to(55) produce and fake.(56) Lotte: Yes, I know.(57)Imm Hazem: When my son died his face was so beautiful, he shaved that morning, and he(58)was well dressed that day, like he was preparing himself to die. We will all die.(59) Mayy (assistant): We will, but we pray to God to die as martyrs rather to die in a natural way(60) because it is a more honourable way to die.(61) Imm Hazem: Yes, and the martyr can ask for forgiveness for seventy people whom he(62)used to know when he was alive.(63) Lotte: Forgiveness for things that already happened or also for things that will come? Can(64) you tell me what a martyr is, if you have to define it, I mean if you are telling(65) somebody who did not know what a martyr is, what would you say?(66) Imm Hazem: A martyr is an honour from God.(67) (after a moment’s thought) It is somebody good.(68) ‘Uht Hazem: Somebody chosen by God to go to Paradise.(69) Lotte: Please take your time; I know it's difficult to say what martyr is.(70)‘Uht Hazem: A martyr is not dead in the real meaning, his spirit is alive and we believe in(71) that as Muslims. He gets a guarantee of entering paradise, and no one gets that guarantee(72) otherwise.(73)Imm Hazem (interrupting): And the martyr's body stays the same after his death, he does not(74)rot or stink, it stays fresh and warm.(75) ‘Uht Hazem: If anyone did something wrong or is guilty about something and did not(76) ask forgiveness he will be punished, but a martyr will be forgiven for whatever he did in his(77) life.(78) Lotte: And do their souls become saints?(79) Mayy: No, their soul stays theirs, but they live in heaven.(80) Imm Hazem: When Hazem was killed, I told everyone that we have to celebrate everything(81)to its extreme! Is it life or death, we have to do it! And even when people used to come and(82)condole me, every few minutes I used to go to do anything else than talking about what I(83) experienced. I always kept myself busy.(84)‘Uht Hazem: Yes, she did and still does so. I remember that two weeks after Hazem’s death(85)there was a wedding that all the family was invited to, and we [the sisters and sisters-in-(86)law](87)were extremely sad about our loss, but my mother said no don’t be sad, we(88) have to go and celebrate the wedding with the family. It is a wedding, and we have to be(89)happy and we are Muslims and Islam says that mourning is three days and it has been fifteen(90)days, so we have to celebrate the wedding! And after that she asked us not to mourn(91)her after her death.(92) Imm Hazem: It is the will of God. Sometimes, when I remember, I can’t handle it and start92


(93) crying for a whole day, and no one can help to make me stop. But it happens to me(94) periodically, not all the time.(95) Lotte: Did many people come to you and support you in the situation?(96) ‘Uht Hazem: Yes indeed, and it’s not related only to people that we know:, anyone, everyone,(97) from the city came to condole us and to support us(98) Zogat ‘ahh aš-šahīd: The consolation of any martyr is different from anyone else,(99) everyone comes to the martyr consolation, to support his family and to tell them(100)that they have to be proud of the martyr. People came from Nablus and many other(101)places outside Bāb aš-šams. Maybe because people feel with the martyr’s families(102)more than any other family that has lost someone dear.Imm Hazem depicts the loss of her son as meaningful by evoking aš-šahīd as a religious figure against thebackdrop of the valuation of heroism in the Palestinian meta-narrative. It is precisely the presence her sontakes on after his bodily death that gives meaning to her loss as a gift rather than a loss. The fact that myinterlocutors invoked the loss associated with martyrdom as a sacrifice indicates the ambiguity at play here:even though martyrdom is not a sacrifice according to Islam, sacrifice is a powerful phenomenon in thecontext of the Palestinian meta-narrative.A link can be made to Lucht’s term ‘existential reciprocity’, which he employs to describe sacrifice asa confirmation of the existence of existential reciprocity (Lucht 2008: 232). In the case of Imm Hazem, herinvocation of sacrifice can be seen as her testimony to the existence of God. The local vernacular of sacrificethereby confirms aš-šahada’s meaning of ‘witnessing’.The meaningfulness of Imm Hazem’s loss is viscerally tangible in the scent that is believed toemanate from the body of the martyr. Later that day I drove with Mayy and Wesam, our driver in Bāb aš-šams,to the Ibrahim mosque in al-Khalil, where Mayy asked me to smell the blood stains on the carpet from what isknown as the 1994 Goldstein Massacre (Collins 2004: 248). The term refers to Baruch Goldstein, an Israelisettler who opened fire on Palestinians praying in the Mosque (ibid.), killing twenty-nine. Given that theywere Muslims performing their morning prayer, their status as martyrs was indisputable. For both Mayy andImm Hazem, the scent was a sign that the men had indeed become martyrs.The martyr’s bodily and spiritual transformation can be said to mirror the closure that, according toFreud, is emblematic of a process of mourning (Freud 1917 (1957)). Characteristic of mourning is that,through its connotation of finitude in the case of death, it brings about the transformation not only of thedeceased but of the bereaved too. Freud contrasts mourning with melancholia, a state in which bereavement isnever fully processed and thus goes on indefinitely, whereas, after a certain period of time, mourning ends(ibid.).In recent anthropology, a story of bereavement is often considered to be a personal story, albeitexperienced by the bereaved within a given cultural mode of understanding grief and mourning (Brison andLeavitt 1995). In contrast, any researcher who has spent time in the West Bank or Gaza will have heardnumerous, almost indistinct stories like that of Imm Hazem ( Jayyusi 2007: 108; Allen 2009, 2006; Kelly2007). As appears from her narrative, it is the structure of dramatic events leading up to a martyr’s violent93


death that initiates the story (lines 6-23). Following this comes the emotional response of the martyr’s mother,framed as sweet despair due to the religious meaning available to interpret violent death as martyrdom (lines36-83). There is a certain steadiness in accounts like the above that is reminiscent of how it has been told andretold to many a listener. The story appears to lack the gaps and silences that are as much a part of life storiesand personal narratives as are well-rounded accounts. Imm Hazem’s story does, however, contain affectivecracks where religious and, in particular, patriotic meaning does not appear to make up for her personal loss,as when she says that she sometimes cannot stop crying but reassures us that this only happens periodically(lines 92-94). Admitting to such feelings is contrary to the effect such a loss is supposed and assumed to haveon several intersecting levels: the level of the Palestinian meta-narrative, which praises umūd(steadfastness); 51 the level of Islam, where hardship and suffering are intrinsic to life and where they feature asa test given to the believer to check that her faith is unbounded; and at the level of international observersclaiming to ‘know’ that Palestinian human losses are incommensurable with loss of a life in the West due tothe alleged meaningfulness ascribed to aš-šahada in both Islam and Palestinian nationalism (cf. Allen 2006).Imm Hazem’s narrative may be understood differently according to how we conceptualise language.As stated in the introduction to the present thesis, I understand language to comprise both the words and theactions through which they are spoken. Basing this notion of language on the work of Wittgenstein (1953(2009)) and Cavell’s reading of him (1979, 1988), I contend, moreover, that language is a prerequisite forsocial intelligibility. By this I mean that I do not assume that some experiences are inexpressible per se due toan intrinsic gap between experience and language. 52 Rather, whether the speaker manages to achieveintelligibility rests on whether there are words in the standing language through which the experiences inquestion can be expressed (cf. Das 1998). In this light, Imm Hazem’s narrative appears as an attempt tocommunicate her feelings of loss within a language that does not acknowledge the martyrdom of her son to bea loss. It shows how language is both a tool to make oneself and one’s experience intelligible, simultaneouslywith it being an instrument through which affect that does not belong in the standing language is made alienfrom the very narrative in which it appears.To further our understanding of loss as at once personal and political, I suggest that Imm Hazem'smode of speaking can be conceived of by way of the philosopher John Austin’s illocutionary acts. Austinanalyses locutions and distinguishes among different aspects of these (Austin 2009 (1962): 102), namelylocutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts. A locution is a speech act that refers to a specific meaning(2009 [1962]: 109). An illocutionary act is an act of language in which the utterance of words is the action initself (ibid.) Perlocutionary acts comprise the consequences we intend a speech act to have [ibid.). JudithButler exemplifies illocutionary acts by analysing hate speech, arguing that the injury of words occurs not as aconsequence of a speech act but in the very act of enunciating them. As a further example of an illocutionaryspeech act, Butler refers to the judge saying ‘I sentence you’, where the words are the actual act (Butler 2007:17). How Imm Hazem narrates suffering as a gift from God rather than a personal loss (lines 21-25) can beseen as an illocutionary act, since she enunciates loss as positive, leaving aside the untold feelings. Her51Cf. Afana, Kirmayer, Ronsbo and Pedersen in press.52This notion of inexpressibility has proliferated in anthropology inspired by literary studies. The proponents of thisview are mainly Elaine Scarry (1987) and Cathy Caruth (1996).94


articulation is political, underpinning as it does the positive connotations ascribed to martyrdom in thePalestinian meta-narrative. From the perspective of Lucht’s notion of existential reciprocity, Imm Hazem’sillocutionary act bears witness to the existence of God by giving her son to Palestine in the hope that God willrepay her sacrifice through the redemption that is intrinsic to martyrdom. 53As Carsten discusses in her essay on kinship and memory (2007), the memory of kinship is castbetween the personal and the political, including and excluding certain parts of the story 54 (2007: 22). Thesimultaneous inclusion and exclusion of dimensions of affect concerning loss appears in both national andinternational imaginaries of Palestinian suffering and in private conceptualisations of bereavement. In theoccupied territory, some images of suffering and loss are simply more materially present than others. Forexample, there is a strong public awareness in the occupied territory of the almost 7,000 Palestinians (Btselem2009) who are currently detained in Israeli prisons (Nashif 2008; Jean-Klein 2003). Also, images circulate ofthe ‘Palestinian Mother’ who, like Imm Hazem, mourns and suffers proudly due to the loss of her sons toeither death or imprisonment, and they are recognised in formal as well as informal social forums. Forinstance, the Palestinian Mother was the topic of the closing comment in one issue of the widely read touristbrochure and local cultural guide ‘This Week in Palestine’ (Vol. 119, 20080301). The framing of a mother’sloss in the national and religious registers appears in yet another detainees' song, called ‘Oh my mother’ andwritten by a former detainee, Ayman Ramadan (2005):(1) Oh mother, if they forbid you from visiting me, I will send my heart to you(2) And I will ask my heart to gently kiss your hand and take care of your flowers and garden(3) Oh mother do not be confused…all Palestinian men are eagles(4) Please mother, I ask you to stay as I always knew you(5) Free and strong with your faith in GodWith regard to evocations of the Palestinian mothers of martyrs and detainees (line 3) as emblematic of theplight of the Palestinians, it is pertinent to analyse what markers of suffering these mothers, along with thewidows of martyrs, are associated with and how this grants them a place in the standing language. My concernin the following is to tease out how the presence and absence of these markers of suffering enable or disablewidows and mothers in faming their sufferings within the boundaries of the standing language and thusrendering the suffering socially intelligible. My emphasis on the relatives of martyrs in the following section isdue to their situation as the backdrop against which the experience of detainees’ wives are understood in theoccupied territory. Assuming that the realm of the domestic is actualised through relations, I analyse hownotions of absence, loss and gendered being are lived in the home.53I have discussed with Dr Mark Vacher whether the parable of Abraham who is about to sacrifice his son Isak is avaluable perspective on Imm Hazem’s narrative. I am hesitant about such an evocation because the sacrifice is inthis instance not only religious. As discussed by Jayyusi and Asad (in Asad 2007: 49), the idea of martyrdom inIslam as such is not a sacrifice: in the Palestinian context the (religious) martyr is represented as a national sacrificein the struggle for a Palestinian state (ibid).54What knowledge is passed on and what is concealed is a result of circumstances and decisions that are politicallycircumscribed and form part of the fabric of the political world in which they occur.95


IV.IV Homely LossThroughout my ethnography, there was a notable tendency on the part of my interlocutors not to makeexplicit the difference between being the wife of a detainee and the widow of a martyr. I argue that this void inthe data is not due to any lack of questions about it on my part, but can be explained by something apparentlyintrinsic to the situation of living with an absent husband while not having experienced an absolute loss. Oneway to bring out the difference between the two is to juxtapose them analytically. The wives of detainees livewith an absence that defies both verbalisation and graphic materialisation, yet is no less part of the everyday.The absolute loss experienced by a martyr’s widow, on the other hand, marks a stark contrast to the elusivenature of absence that detainees’ wives endure. The decor of Fardoz’s living room indicates the fundamentaldifference between the two.Fardoz is the widow of a martyr. In her home, the relative splendour of as-salon stands in starkcontrast to the rest of the worn-out, sparsely furnished concrete house. Fardoz’’ damp, dark living room has asits main attraction two centrepieces, each standing on a pedestal. One displays a pair of men’s spectaclestogether with a photograph of Fardoz’’ deceased husband. The other exhibits his plastic digital watch. Thewatch is still running: ‘ I cannot bring myself to stop it, so it still has its alarm set for eight o'clock in themorning. In that sense my husband lives on with me, may God be with him. I know, every morning that thealarm will go off. You see, he is still part of my day’, Fardoz said.The way in which Nadia’s (whom we met at the beginning of this chapter) and Fardoz’s martyredhusbands stay with them through artefacts alludes to their ability to make their losses and theircommemoration material. The described objects serve as personal metonyms for aš-šahīd. For instance, thewatch of Fardoz’ deceased husband used to be an instrument that helped him structure his everyday. Since hisdeath the watch has lost its instrumental meaning and become a sign, a metonym for the whole that used to beher husband. It is, however, not only through such manifest objects that the women’s husbands stay with theirfamilies. In these particular families’ interpretation of Islam – an interpretation that some other Palestiniansconsider traditional and somewhat extreme – the martyr’s bodyliness is perceived as staying with him. Thisappeared from Imm Hazem’s evocation of the scent of the martyr. The absence of the visceral decay intrinsic todeath even made her wish for her son to become a martyr. As the above conversation with Imm Hazem alsoshows, although bodily deceased, the martyr remains present through his eternal soul. Imm Hazem’s storyilluminates how a man’s martyrdom gives way to his eternal presence in the lives of his close kin.Pointing to a possible difference between affinal and consanguineal kin, the martyrs’ widows withwhom I engaged used a language remarkably different from that of Imm Hazem. One of them was Shatha, themother of four children and the widow of a martyr. Together with her children, she lives in a spacious houseon the outskirts of Bāb aš-šams. In her backyard, her deceased husband’s horse grazes. My first encounter withShatha took place during the initial phase of my fieldwork. While serving us home-made tiger cake andchocolate cake, she recounted to Mayy and I the graphic details of how her husband had died in an Israeli airstrike. Shatha cried, weeping her way through her story, but insisting that she go on, although we did not pressher to continue and tried to comfort her. Yet during the tearful narrative there was simultaneously a sense thatthe words were available to her – she did not have to search for them. Her story had been told before: she96


knew it intimately, its details, its dramatic peaks, its ending. One day Mayy and I stopped by Shatha’s housebecause she had shown us a rash during our last visit, after which we had offered to take her to Mayy’s father,who is a physician. While waiting for our driver Wesam to arrive, she started again speaking about the loss ofher husband. Her account, though, was distinctly different from a leftover of mourning. Shatha herself seemedto come to life when talking about her husband. She was flustered, her cheeks blushed and the air around herwas dense with adrenalin when she narrated the last hours of her husband's life and how his death made herfeel. In a way similar to Imm and ‘uht Hazem, Shatha evoked the sensuous if not physical presence of herdeceased husband.At the same time as the martyr’s presence is secured among his bereaved family through objects,memories and sensual perceptions, the widows I spoke to all stressed that their lives with their husbands wereclosed chapters. His absence from their lives, even though it was what ensured his eternal presence, was certainand unequivocal. Although martyrdom returns the martyr from the dead by conferring on him eternal life,thus giving him a presence in the lives of the bereaved, I suggest that this presence is definitive and thusdistinct from the unsettled presence of a ghost. Ghosts, argues Sebald in Carsten, are caused by an excess ofgrief that haunts everyday lives (Carsten 2007: 10). In contrast, the martyr, being dead yet simultaneouslypresent, lets his relatives reorganise their lives without him, which, according to Freud, is the parameter of anaccomplished process of mourning (Freud 1917 [1957]). A martyr’s relatives know where he is, and this senseof closure allows them to mourn him through practices of domestic commemoration comprising photos,personal paraphernalia and not least storytelling that takes place in the home. The widows I met tried indifferent ways to move on, start their own lives, complete their education and find a job. Their lives were nothaunted by how the martyr was present in their lives because this presence was not ghostly. Whereas thecontext of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid and the Palestinian struggle against Israel are oftencompared (cf. Leila Farsakh 2005), I argue that the widows of Palestinian martyrs – contrary to Ramphele’sanalysis of the widows of South African freedom fighters mentioned earlier (Ramphele 1997) – are notambiguous figures. The difference, I suggest, resides in how the death of a Palestinian martyr has a register ofreligious interpretation available to it on order to make his death definitive ( Johnson 1982: 77). In contrast tothe South African widows, the definitive status of the martyr is therefore what allows a martyr’s widow asettled and, derivatively, honourable social presence (cf. Allen 2006). Below I explore how ambiguity in theoccupied territory appears to be tied to incarceration rather than to violent death.IV.V Unhomely AbsenceOne martyr’s widow expressed herself differently from other widows: Nadia, whose second husband isdetained in Israel. Nadia only spoke about her detained husband when probed by one of my direct questions.In the following, I examine the void produced by the absence of an incarcerated husband and the affect thatsurrounds it. I encountered Nadia for the first time in an unpleasant room in a branch of the Prisoners’Support Centre, where she had formerly taken part in a project for bereaved women. She had suggested thatwe meet at the clinic. When she arrived, she was escorted by her sister-in-law. I had imagined this encounter asan occasion to present myself and my project and to see whether, at a later stage, she would allow me to visither in her home for longer conversations about her life. I did not envisage a substantial conversation with her97


there and then, and definitely not about emotional issues. Nadia appeared hesitant, sad and somewhat ‘empty’,in Mayy’s words. Our conversation unfolded in a calm atmosphere in which, in a quiet and matter-of-factmanner, she told me about the circumstances of her life. After that I spent many hours in her house with herand the other women of her family-in-law. The following brief extract from our first conversation illustrateshow her entire way of expressing herself differed substantially from that of her mother-in-law, as well asShatha:(1)Nadia: I was born in Bāb aš-šams, where I still live, in a separate part of the house of my family-in-law(2)with my children. I married twice: my first husband became a martyr, and the second is in prison.(3)The house I now live in is where I moved with my first husband just before he was killed (…)(4) God be with him. We had three children together, a girl, who is ten, a boy of seven, and a girl of five.(5) With my second husband I have a son who is four(6) Lotte: Do all of your children live with you?(7) Nadia: Yes.(8) Lotte: Is that OK both with the family of your late husband and of your present husband?(9) Nadia: Yes, they were brothers: my second husband is my brother-in-law.(10) Lotte: And he is in prison now? That’s not easy, how long is his sentence?(11) Nadia: 22 years, but we are hoping for an exchange of detainees(12) Lotte: Are you allowed to see him?(13) Nadia: Not at the moment, but I get letters from him every three or four months. It is a bit difficult(14) since they move him to different prisons without informing us. We get the information later.(15) Lotte: And your first husband, God be with him, was he in prison too?(16) Nadia: No, he was killed. I lived for two months with him in the house we had just built(17)before he was killed. Before the year was over, I had married his brother.(18) Lotte: Did you know your first husband’s brother well at that time?(19) Nadia: No, I only got to know him better after he was imprisoned. He is far away from my heart.(20) But he is a good man, he took good care of the children when my husband died.(21) Lotte: (a little confused about who she speaks about when using the term husband)(22)Who do you consider to be your husband of the two?(23) Nadia: My first husband.(24) Lotte: Why?(25) Nadia: The entire situation with him. My marriage with him was beautiful, and after our(26) engagement we became really close, even though I did not expect that. At first, when we got engaged,I(27) did not feel anything, but after getting to know him, I began to feel really happy.(27) Lotte: Can you describe him for me, as a man?(29) Nadia: He had a great personality, he treated me well and his way of dealing with people was nice.(30) Lotte: So it must have been a great loss when he was killed and you had to marry someone else.(31) Nadia: At first it was tough and very strange. But after a while it began to feel OK, he handled the98


(32) children very, very well, so it was better than being alone. I am lucky, because, he is not(33) jealous of my husband, he loves my children and he does not favour his child over the children of(34) my husband, and I can speak about my husband in front of him without him minding. But, due to the(35)situation and the time I got to spend with my husband, there is another man in my heart. In(36)the beginning it was very tough being alone with my children, but it is OK now, even though(37)I am also alone now.(38) Lotte: I am so sorry for your loss. And on top of that you have had to deal with a lot of(39) challenges to keep you and your children going after he died.(40) Nadia: It is a loss. My children lost the word ‘dad’; to me it is the loss itself, losing him.(41) Most people want me to have a good life, and some were just plain intruders.(42) Lotte: How did people intrude in your life?(43) Nadia: My mother did not intrude. At first my father-in-law-wanted me to marry(44) my husband’s brother: you see, everyone is just looking after his own interests. My own(45) family supported me, and after a while my family-in-law stopped pressuring me. But people(46) said to me, ‘you cannot live without a husband’. But I was so young, and so confused.(46) Lotte: How did you figure out what to do?(47)Nadia: I spoke to my mother’s cousin and then I made my own choice. Now I am married,(48) but not in practice…. But, when people intrude, there is protection.(50) Lotte: Yes, I see, it must have made things easier after you married again?(51) Nadia: Yes, but it is not good, it is not a good life.(51) Lotte: I think I understand, but can you tell me why?(53) Nadia: It is on the inside, there is an empty space, a hole in me.(54) Lotte: Do people around you know about how you feel?(55) Nadia: No, not all people recognise it, but those who know me do, my friends, my mother,(56) my sister and my cousin, the people that feel with me.(57) Lotte: Which one of them do you feel understands you the most?(58) Nadia: My cousin, she is the one who asks about me, how I am, others ask about my(59) husband, how is the detainee.(60) Lotte: I know. How do you imagine the day when he comes out of prison?(61) Nadia: I do not have any ambitions with my other husband; he comes out of prison when(62) my children have grown up, so he cannot really help with the burden of raising them.(63) Lotte: No, twenty-two years is a very long time.(63) Nadia: Yes, four years feels like forty. I am twenty-six, but I feel older than that.Although being in its point of departure a martyr’s widow’s story, Nadia’s account shows more than a slightsimilarity to the conversations I had with women who could unambiguously be categorised as detainees’wives. Conversely, it differs from the often-told stories – complying as they did with popular templates ofrecounting the nexus of national sacrifice and religious martyrdom – given to me by the martyrs’ widows.The similarity between Nadia’s story and those of unambiguous detainees’ wives may be thought of99


with the help of Wittgenstein’s notion of family resemblance (Wittgenstein 1953 [2009]: 36). The term refersto instances where there are multiple constellations of similarity between two or more phenomena but notone overarching feature that is the same. Despite being the widow of a martyr, Nadia has no martyr’s story totell. As in the case of other women married to detainees, the story of her incarcerated husband is not closed.As emerges from lines 62-63 in the above conversation, it is a story without an ending, and thus one that doesnot allow for proper mourning, for a claim to suffering or for a spectacular materialisation of her loss. Alongwith a deeply embodied national discourse of loss and mourning, Nadia's lack of mention of her secondhusband also had to do with her relative lack of feelings toward him. Whereas her first husband becamesomeone she loved, in her own words her second husband was simply ‘nice, polite and a good father for thechildren’. In lines 32-33 she speaks loyally but in a distanced way about him. It was never him she thought ordreamt about. To talk about life as the wife of a detainee is to talk about a void: about places, times andsituations that were somehow not quite right because something was and still is missing (cf. line 52).Another interlocutor of mine was Aisha, an estimated and respected community leader from DarNūra. I frequently came to her office in the afternoon, from where after work we would drive back to her flatin her workplace’s old Mercedes, listening to scratchy recordings of the famous Lebanese singer Fayrous. Oneafternoon we spoke about the occupation: ‘People in Dar Nūra were responsible for a lot of important stagesof the Palestinian revolution .55 (...) Even though it was not good for the families, people from all over Palestinerespect us because of it’. Aisha’s comment was said with pride from having participated in the struggle againstthe occupation. Meanwhile she revealed how the heroic deeds had not solely affected the families of the menpositively. Her words testify to her intimacy with the limited efficacy of the national discourse in the domesticsphere. Aisha knows this not only from being a Palestinian: her husband is serving a life sentence.As stated previously, I participated in a three-month group therapeutic project for five detainees’wives in Dar Nūra initiated by the Prisoner’s Support Centre. The centre’s focus was on the detainees, martyrs,and their families, the so-called secondary victims. In participating in the therapeutic sessions, the women inthe group would talk at length about how their neighbours and families were keeping their whereaboutsunder close surveillance, ‘as if we are under a microscope’, as one woman stated. As I outlined in Chapter III,the aim of the therapists facilitating the group was to promote strength and empowerment by telling thewomen to stay well but not to care too much about the comments and the rumours about them behind theirbacks. An explicit goal of this therapeutic group was the creation of a network of support among the women.In the beginning of the therapeutic project, the main therapist invited the women to speak about their feelingsin relation to their captive husbands, their families and ‘the village’. This invitation was largely ignored because,I suggest, of the potent forces of kinship and social relations at work in Palestinian society. 56This points to a difference between the significance of the social relations that make up the women’slives and how these are imagined within a Bion-inspired notion of group therapy, which was the model55In his analysis of how Islam forms part of Palestinian nationalism, Nels Johnson shows how the term Thawrah(revolution) is used to convey the redemptive implications of the process of the Palestinian revolution.Participation in at-Thawrah holds a promise to redemption in itself: redemption is not something that occurs oncethe revolution has occurred (Johnson 1982: 83).56This is discussed in Chapter VI, ‘Hard Things Make People Closer: Contracted Closeness and ActualisedObligations’.100


employed here. Wilfred Bion is one of the European founders of group therapy (Bion 1961 [1996]). Hisbackground was in psychoanalysis, yet in his method individuals, their concerns and problems give way to thegroup as a whole during therapeutic sessions. Bion’s premise was that the therapeutic group is a forum thatreflects social interaction outside the therapeutic space. Emphasis is therefore on the group process rather thanthe social relations in which group members participate outside the therapeutic space (ibid.). In Bion’s modelfor group therapy, the aim is for the social relations of the groups’ participants to make up a social forum in itsown right throughout the duration of the group, a forum in which the participants can momentarily suspendtheir habitual social ties (cf. Bion 1961 [1996]). Below I consider why this did not happen in the therapeuticgroup project in question here.Dar Nūra is known to originate from one prominent West Bank family, 57 which continues todominate the village both numerically and with regard to influence. 58 For instance, members of this wealthy,educated, and politically engaged family often occupy major positions in the local council or the widercommunity. This, in tandem with how the Palestinian form of preferred marriage 59 to patrilateral parallelcousins is widely upheld in the village, implies that the women in the therapeutic group were related to eachother through either consanguineal or affinal kinship. In light of the social significance of containinginformation that could harm one’s family, it is not surprising that the ideal of a therapeutic group in whichregular social ties are suspended by the ties formed in that group was hampered, if not made impossible fromthe outset.Early on during the therapeutic process, one of the women in the group, Amina, broke the news ofher daughter’s engagement. Amina is thirty-nine-years old and has four daughters. Several years before I spoketo her, the Israeli army demolished her house as a punishment for her husband’s role in violent activities ofresistance against Israel. He is currently serving a multi-year sentence and figures at the centre of one of thethousands of different posters of heroes of al-Intifā a al-Aqsa that adorn countless buildings in the occupiedterritory. Speaking about her daughter’s engagement made Amina proud and simultaneously sad. Aminaregretted the loneliness she would feel without her daughter in the house. But she was also sad that herhusband could not discuss the engagement, the suitability of the groom, the party or any of theresponsibilities of a marriage that are thought to belong to the father of the bride. The other women in thegroup showed their understanding, saying that Amina had to go ahead anyway and should not worry aboutthe gossip, and telling her that she was still alive even though her husband was in prison. Amina invited them57The history of Dar N ra’ is distinctive, and research into the village’s geographic and demographic trajectory hasbeen undertaken by archeologists. It is, however, a history that, if disclosed, will reveal the identity of the villageand thereby my interlocutors. The information I have provided above is important in order to understand theclosely braided relationality of the village. I have restricted myself from further expansion on this subject out ofconcern for the anonymity of my interlocutors.58In the Levant, such extended families, or more precisely clans, are referred to as hamula (cf. Johnson 1982: 63). I donot employ the term elsewhere in the thesis since it was never used by my interlocutors. Speaking about family andrelatedness with them, the term used was al- ’ila (family).59I employ Bourdieu’s notion of ‘preferred marriage; to convey the idea that, although patrilateral parallel cousinmarriage may be considered the ideal form of marriage, this does not entail that such marriages are always possibleor preferable (Bourdieu 1977 [1995]: 35). As described in the introduction, this form of marriage prevails largely invillages across the West Bank, but it is upheld in urban areas too.101


to attend the wedding, as a wedding is considered a joyous occasion for all villagers. The women were vague intheir replies as to whether they were going to turn up on the night and responded to Amina’s invitation withinshallah, God willing.On the wedding night, Amina looked stunning, wearing discrete make-up and the exact samesubtle and respectable clothes as her younger sister Layla, with whom she shares the practical and moralresponsibility for her household. The wedding was held in a party hall in the centre of the town. This being atraditional wedding, men and women celebrated separately, the only man allowed to be among the womenbeing the groom. As with many such weddings, however, the gender separation was permeable. Adolescentsand laughing kids constantly made sure they kept the door open between the men’s and women’s areas. Aminahandled the role of the hostess for the women’s part of the wedding well, yet her usual air of quiet sadnesslingered with her even on this night. After a while dancing, she came over and chatted. When I asked her ifshe was happy, she looked away and said, ‘there is something missing’. Amina’s husband, though, was not theonly one missing. None of the members of the therapeutic group project, who were also Amina’s near anddistant kin relations, were there. The only ones from the group were the two psychologists from Nablus andmyself. When I later asked Amina where the other women from the therapy group had been, she said she didnot know. When I posed the same question to the women of the group on the next few days, they all madeexcuses.I suggest that their absence from the wedding displays the lived voids in the omnipresent nationaland local discourse of support and strong social ties in the village, a discourse that connotes a social idealaccording to which all the women should have turned up on the occasion of the wedding. Although Amina isthe most ‘simple’ among the women in terms of economy and education, she is well liked and has a goodreputation, partly due to her husband’s perceived heroic deeds. According to the discourse of collective prideabout the village’s heroes evoked by Aisha, a marriage within one of the most heroic families would have beenan appropriate place to display support for Amina and her family.The incident of Amina’s wedding suggests that the bonds established via the therapeutic group werenot sufficient to repel her group mates’ fear of the intense and uninterrupted social control to which theirbehaviour was subjected. It shows how the fear of social control is felt by the detainees’ wives as increasingindiscernibly but unmistakeably. Rather than subjects of honour, the women seem to have become potentialsource of offensive behaviour, a position that is feared by the women themselves and their families. Thewedding thus testifies to how affect is configured with the onset of the incarceration of one’s husband. Part ofsuch affective configurations is how the affect of support, loyalty and praise extended to the relatives of thedetainee are actualised simultaneously with affect that is apparently so powerful that it can keep otherwiseobvious guests away from an event as important as the wedding of Amina’s daughter. Before I go more deeplyinto analysing the affective configurations that occur in the wake of absent husbands, another example of voidsin the social practice of honouring the detainees’ families will serve to illuminate this configuration.Public appearance and social control was a returning topic of conversation internally among myinterlocutors and with myself whenever we spoke about their lives after their respective husbands had beendetained. People in the village, as well as the women’s close and distant relatives, kept an eye on them. As myinterlocutor Mervat said during a conversation I had with her and Weeam next to the heater in Weaam’s living102


oom:It is as if, when her husband is in prison, a woman has to kill herself and she must put herself in theprison too. And at the same time, my husband is saying, if I tell him how I feel, about my sadness,why are you crying, you must be proud of me, that I am in prison.Weaam added that her husband was always calling the house from the prison to see if she was at home or outof the house. If she was out, he would say, ‘where are you’, ‘where have you been’, ‘why are you going out’, ‘whoare you with’, and ‘what are you wearing’. No matter whom she was with or where she went, there wouldalways be someone who claimed to have seen her in the company of someone not proper, wearing somethinginappropriate. ‘After my husband was detained I stopped being a woman; now I am just a mother’, she wouldsay.A few days after the conversation with Weaam and Mervat, I called in on Weaam to see if I couldstop by for a chat with her one morning. She welcomed me, and when I turned up with Rawan a few dayslater, Weaam looked different. Usually when she was at home she wore an old, casual tracksuit. But now shewas wearing her gold jewellery and a transparent blouse with a low neckline, in fact a neckline so low that itrevealed a red bra with lace. During our chat she would shift between covering herself up and letting usglimpse her lingerie until her oldest daughter demonstratively entered the living room with a safety pin, whichWeaam awkwardly used to gather up her clothes and cover herself. A reference to our discussion aboutwomanhood the week before, Weaam’s materialisation of her female identity was for Rawan’s and my eyesonly. Any sign of femininity, sensuality or the like was confined to her home and could be displayed only to aclose circle of female friends, like Mervat. This applied to all the women I got to know. The first times I visited,the women were dressed up. But already after my first few visits they did not bother changing into somethingdifferent, since when I went to see them I gradually came to be perceived less as a guest and more as a friend. Ifone of the women in a group meeting wore mascara, the others would comment. Some cheered, while otherswould exchange disapproving glances.The fact that among my interlocutors the wearing of make-up even in women-only forums was acontested issue elucidates how practices of social control and perceived appropriate behaviour for women –particularly women not in the company their male kin – are elements not in an abstract discourse, but in alived orientation in the world, directed towards others and the self (cf. Abu-Lughod 1986 (2000), 1993).Relating Weaam’s display of her femininity to the event of Amina’s daughter’s wedding, I suggestthat, to the detainees’ wives, a wedding means something entirely different from the joyful event a wedding issupposed to be. A wedding is normally an event where women are allowed to let their hair down and wearfestive, even sensual clothes and make-up and display femininity outside the domestic, albeit genderseparated,realm. To the detainees’ wives in Dar Nūra, however, the wedding represented an occasion forvillagers to scrutinise the women’s appearance and behaviour, evaluating their social presence as if they weredisplaying the sensuality and femininity that is only allowed in their homes inappropriately in public. Theevent of the wedding and Weaam’s enactment of sexuality in her home suggest that, to the detainees’ wives,the public and the domestic realms are less distinct than is often assumed in the anthropology of the Middle103


East (cf. Eickelman 1977). Indeed, the way in which kin and community evaluate the social presence of thedetainees’ wives seems to indicate that the women’s domestic realms are to a large extent public.The social mechanisms at play in the case of Amina’s daughter’s wedding can be illuminatedthrough Das and Addlakha’s contention that the domestic is actualised as ‘the sphere in which the family hasto confront ways of disciplining contagion and stigma’ (2001). If Amina's daughter's wedding constitutes adisplacement of the domestic to the public sphere, the wedding is no less a place in which Amina’s family hadto ‘confront ways of disciplining contagion and stigma’. One reason why the other detainees’ wives refrainedfrom attending the wedding is that such an event constitutes a space where, like Amina, they must confrontthe rumours that circulate about them. The wedding may thus be seen as a site where compelling intimaciesare configured by a politics that permeates both the public and private realms (Goodfellow and Mulla 2008).The home as a site where politics configures intimate affect also shows in how Weaam’s detained husband isthe one to check whether she is behaving like the proper wife of a detainee. The absence of the women’sdetained husbands, which is not considered to change anything because it is not recognised as a loss, proves tohave caused a configuration of affect that saturates the women’s self-perception, life-world and social presence.Like the difference between asra’ and šuhada’, the affective configuration of the detainees’ wives’lives is different from the transformation of the martyr’s widow on the occasion of her husband’s death. It is adifference so slight that it has yet to emerge as a material difference. Resonating nonetheless with the unsettledstatus of the detainees, the wives have become unsettled derivatively due to their husbands’ absence. For thedetainees, part of their unsettled presence in the social world that salutes them as heroes is the fact that theirheroism can always be called into question. Nobody knows whether they are informing the Israeli authoritiesabout their political comrades. This undecided status resonates in the lives of their wives in how they too areconsidered legitimate targets for rumours, the mere potential of which kept them from participating in thewedding of Amina’s daughter.This undecidedness runs through the entirety of the women’s lives and was instantiated in aconversation I had with Aisha over a casual Friday lunch in her house. Aisha had insisted that Amina and Ijoin her in her flat in order for us to have the opportunity for a more private talk. With Aisha and Aminameticulously overseeing the entire process, we had collectively prepared the traditional dish of ‘Maqlūbeh’,literally ‘upside down’. Throughout the day chicken, rice and eggplant are fried separately, then layered in alarge pot, with the chicken at the bottom followed by the eggplant and the rice on top. In serving the dish, thepot is turned upside down and spills decoratively onto a big plate. After the meal had been eaten and clearedaway, we sat in silence and watched the sun set over the hills surrounding Dar Nūra. I commented on Aisha’snew short crop, in reply to which she said: ‘I am so frustrated, I did not know what to do, so after my visit toAhmad’s (her husband) lawyer I cut my hair short – Ahmad can’t see me anyway, so it does not matter what Ilook like or how I appear’.Elaborating on her frustration, Aisha stated:It’s not a loss, it’s something else. It’s living without my soul mate. We used to share everything, butthen I suddenly lost him, [and] there is something missing in my life. No, it is not a loss because lossis a negative thing, whereas missing someone is more romantic. And he does not want me to be lost.And I do not accept having the feeling of loss in my life, because he has to be with me. Whenever104


there are important decisions around our new house, I postpone them until Ahmad is out of prison.Aisha’s frustration discloses the ambiguity of permeable boundaries between loss and absence, not least theway in which different temporalities mark out the difference between the two. Since Ahmad is not dead, shehas not lost him: he is ‘just’ absent. In line with the Palestinian meta-narrative, her feelings are supposed to bedominated by romantic longing and desire, as well as pride stemming from playing a part in the nationalstruggle. However, this is clearly only partly the case. In the reality that is Amina’s life feelings of loss are clearlyat work, but Aisha must struggle against them, illustrated by her explicit refusal to accept having them. Wemay think of her husband’s absence not only as a temporal suspension of his material presence in her life, but asuspension that, in comparison with the martyrs, does not transform the relationship between him and hiswife as a proper loss would, thus allowing the bereaved to turn their lost ones into persons who can becommemorated. On the face of it, Turner’s (1967,1974, 1986) term ‘liminality’ seems appropriate inemphasising the temporal suspension of social being. Liminality was used by Nashif in his analysis of theconstruction of community among Palestinian ex-detainees to describe the state of the detainees themselvesduring imprisonment. But, as will appear in the following and final part of this chapter, it seems that theconcept of liminality only goes some way in describing and analysing the altered ordinary of the detainees’swives.IV.VI Domesticating the UncannyDeparting from the intimate level of the imperceptibly but gravely distorted everyday lives of detainees’families, I will discuss how to think more generally about absence, loss and the ordinary in the Palestiniancontext. For that purpose, I return to Cavell’s writings about the almost unnoticeable changes that seep intothe ordinary and that, rather than distorting it, become familiar. Inspired by how Cavell draws on Freud in hisanalysis of the ordinary, I argue that to understand the slightness of this difference, Freud’s notion of theuncanny is fruitful. ‘The uncanny is that species of the frightening that goes back to what was once wellknown and had long been familiar’ (Freud 1919 [2003]: 124). Here, Freud alludes to how the familiar canbecome unfamiliar because the familiar and the unfamiliar are less oppositions than changing surfaces of thesame ground. Analysing the uncanny in his essay of the same name, Freud employs the German terms‘heimlich’ (homely) and ‘unheimlich’ (unhomely): ‘Heimlich thus becomes increasingly ambivalent, until itfinally merges with its antonym unheimlich. The uncanny is in some way a species of the familiar (dasHeimliche, ‘the homely’)’ (Freud 1919 [2003]: 133). In his examination of the uncanny, the domestic thusfigures as that which can slide indiscernibly into the uncanny. I pursue the argument that we can think aboutthe differences between martyr’s widows and detainee’s wives through the notion of the uncanny. Arguingthat the uncanny is part of the domestic only in the case of the detainees’ wives, I conclude by discussing therespective alterations of the domestic realm for widows and wives. Because the domestic is permeated bypolitics in the occupied territory, I conclude upon the configuration of affect around loss and absence and theway in which loss evokes both positive connotations of finality and, as was the case for Aisha, a negativefeeling that the absence of her husband had a finality to it that she did not want to recognise because her105


husband’s disappearance is ‘only’ an absence. Finally I turn to the aspect of diverging temporalities in loss andabsence respectively.The difference between the experiences of being the widow of martyr and the wife of a detaineecannot be rendered intelligible by examining only the national, public discourse in which heroes and theirfamilies are praised.As appears in the cases of Nadia, Fardoz and Shatha – all martyr's widows (althoughNadia is also a detainee’s wife) – the display and manner of commemorating their husbands form part of theheart of the home, as-salon. As described above, the organisation of this room is saturated with national andreligious politics. This is no less the case in the homes of the detainees’ wives, but their status differs from thatof the martyrs’ widows due to the unsettled nature of the heroism of the detainee’s. As Carsten writes, photosare ‘not necessarily of the past but can signal a wish to be immersed in certain relations’ (Carsten 2007: 18).The photos of the detainees in the homes of their families signal a wish to keep them as part of the domestic,and to keep them intact. As already mentioned in the introduction to this thesis, Cavell discusses theShakespearian tragedy Othello through an analysis of Othello’s denial of Desdemona in the wake of hersuspected adultery (Cavell 1979: 489). Cavell understands Othello’s denial as a refusal of imperfection, arefusal that is believed to keep skepticism at bay.I will return to the question of skepticism in the conclusion to the present chapter. Here, I wish todwell on the efforts of detainees wives to keep the other intact. In the case of the martyr’s widows, thephotographic displays of as-šuhada’ may be thought of, I argue, as a quite straightforward practice ofcommemoration. The superficially similar but substantially different visual displays of the detainees striking aheroic pose and wearing combat attire in the heart of the domestic may, on the other hand, be thought of as anattempt to keep them intact as heroic figures. Due to the significance of displaying loyalty and support for theresistance against Israel in the sphere of the domestic, the photos of the detainee might also signal an effort tokeep the home intact in the wake of absence and the rumours and intense social control – ‘as if we are under amicroscope’ – that this absence invites. The disappointment of this effort lies precisely in the unsettled statusof the detainees, an undecidedness that allows for rumour. The failure to keep the domestic intact showedboth in the case of Weeam’s husband, who is constantly on the phone to check up on her, and in the cases ofthe failure of Amina’s fellow detainees’ wives to attend her daughter’s wedding. Whereas the domestic is oftenpresented as a space in which the expression of female self and sexuality is encouraged due to its separationfrom the public realm (Abu-Lughod 2002, 1986 [2000]; Eickelman 1977), the two cases were imbued withnational politics in which sexual modesty is a key value. One could argue that a wedding is not part of thedomestic realm since it is a semi-public event. But, I argue, in so far as the domestic is actualised through socialrelations and a wedding marking an important domestic event, it indeed renders a wedding an extension ofthe domestic. Under normal circumstances this extension is ordinary, but it was judged insufficiently domesticby the detainees’ wives because they knew that their femininity was seen as potentially unsuitable for publicdisplay. This is why none of them turned up to celebrate the wedding. It is changes like these, whereeverything appears normal on the surface, that we can think of as affective configurations of the domestic asuncanny. The detainees’ wives’ feeling of being at home in the organisation of space and social relations isaffected to the extent that the home has become uncanny.Since the domestic is actualised and configured by social relations in and around this sphere, it is106


important to point to how relations, and particularly gendered relations, are reconfigured in the homes of themartyrs’ and detainees’ families respectively. A closer look at these structural relations makes it clear that socialpresence is gendered, an observation that is reflected in the situation of detainees’ wives against the backdropof that of martyrs’ widows. Before these women became actualised as these two categories, they werePalestinian women. And in the occupied territory a woman’s presence, if not existence, is denoted by thepresence or absence of the man who, at any given point in time, is her primary male relation. In understandingthis social fact, I refer to Joseph’s idea of ‘patriarchal connectivity’ ( Joseph 1999). Joseph suggests that thewestern notion of self is inappropriate in Middle Eastern countries because the ideal self in Arab societies isnot a bounded, unitary individual but rather a relational person, configured according to patriarchy, and withpermeable borders between self and other.In the context of the analysis in the present thesis of women who are related in different ways toheroic men, patriarchal relationality can be inferred from the term used to designate these women: it was notarmale’ (widow) but ‘zoge aš-šahīd’ or ‘zoge al-asīr’, which mean ‘wife of a martyr’ and ‘wife of a detainee’respectively. In the women’s own speech, the issue of relationality figures in the way in which the women mostoften refer to themselves using wa’di, which refers to ‘my situation’ (as married to detainee or martyr) insteadof instead of ana or ‘I’. However, patriarchal connectivity as a structuring principle pertains not only to thewomen in question, but equally to all women in Palestine.A key point at which the circumstances of martyrs’ widows and prisoners’ wives diverge is withregard to the duration of their husbands’ absence. Absence in the form of a permanent loss is markedlydifferent from the absence that is allegedly temporary, its duration in principle equalling the prison sentence (Ireturn to the question of life sentences in the subsequent chapter). This is partly because it is recognised that,when a man dies, his family and his wife experience a loss. Consequently, because the widow of a martyr hasderivatively sacrificed her own life for a greater cause, her loss is acknowledged. In this respect, religion plays amost salient part because of the meaningful frame of interpretation, justification and legitimisation of lossallowed for in practising Islam (Lindholm Schulz 2003; Allen 2006; Johnson 1982). To lose a husband in away that complies with the available religious parameters of meaning is, in fact, a gain. Whether this applieson the emotional level varies from woman to woman, but socially – that is, in public discourse – losing a son, afather or a husband to martyrdom is considered to be honourable, a loss that has its place in the vocabulary ofthe standing language. This does not exempt the martyrs’ widows from having to face many of the same issuesof public gossip, speculation and surveillance as do detainees’ wives. But the acknowledgement of martyr’swidows and their affliction, I suggest, has to do with the transformation in their social status that occurs whentheir husband dies, a transformation that, through their close relationship to the martyr, places them at theheart of the standing language in which victimhood merges with heroism. It is this transformation that makesa difference in kind from that wrought by the detainee, and not merely a difference in degree, as would appearwere we only to listen to the national discourse, which evokes the difference between al-asīr and aš-šahīd as amatter of steps on a ladder of sacrifice for Palestine, with martyrdom being the ultimate step. It is precisely thisdifference, I argue, that evades the standing language, in which the detainees’ wives are included but notacknowledged.Attempting to understand this failure of acknowledgment of detainees’ wives entails a return to107


temporality in relation to the figures of al-asīr and aš-šahīd as connoting loss or absence respectively. For themartyr’s widows, their transformation in social status and the durability of their loss is permanent. Thechapters of the widows’ lives as wives are closed, and whatever remains of the husband/martyr’s personalbelongings and memorabilia ensures his eternal presence, but, significantly, in a new chapter in their lives. Thewidows' transformation thus resonates with those of their deceased husbands.Detainees’ wives, by contrast, live with an absence that is perceived in public discourse to betemporary, irrespective of the fact that it may last for the rest of the women’s lives. Because of the hope that,with a peace agreement with Israel, all Palestinian detainees in Israeli detention will be released, the issue ofcaptivity remains within the realm of the temporary, no matter how many life sentences the detainee inquestion has been given. Because of this, and due to the latent hope of a successful negotiation of ‘thedetainees question’ with Israel, the absence of the detainee/husband is considered nationally to be a pause, andthus not as something that causes the same permanent transformation as when a husband dies. The absence ofthe detainee stands out through what it is not, namely death. We saw the ambiguity of losing versus missing inAisha’s comments above. Part of the ambiguity resides in the fact that a detainee's wife's social status is notsupposed to change, or if it does, it does so allegedly to the better because of the honour of being married to ahero. Despite this, nothing stays the same: her social status does indeed change. From being treated as arespectable housewife, she becomes suspended between being married and yet dangerous and unrestrainedbecause her husband is not there. In contrast to this ambiguous presence, the martyr’s widow becomes aperson in her own right because of her loss and because of the value of that very loss: the ultimate sacrifice forPalestine.The situation of detainees’ wives evades the vocabulary of the acknowledgement of sacrifice or lossbecause what they are living through is considered neither. The detainees are also potentially ambiguousfigures, though perhaps not to the same degree as their wives. Ambiguity unsettles the validity of a public,well-known discourse about the relatives of detainees as subjects who gain in social status and honour. Thedouble ambiguity of the wives of detainees is moulded through how the wives’ social presence is derived fromthe absence of their detainee husbands. Secondly, the potential ambiguity intrinsic in the figure of thedetainee seeps into this derivative presence of his wife.IV. VI ConclusionIn the preceding pages, I have focused on the ambiguities surrounding the honour ascribed to and/orwithheld from detainees’ wives. While I am not suggesting that these ambiguities render this kind of honouraltogether invalid – indeed, I would argue that there is no reason to doubt that detainees wives do feel, andare, properly honoured by their kin and in their communities – my concern has been to inquire into the spacebetween what Massumi terms ‘to affect and to be affected’ (Massumi in Deleuze and Guattari 1987: xvi). Inthis instance, the term comprises how the standing language at once configures the affect around theincarceration of Palestinian men and simultaneously fails to acknowledge how the absence of a detainedhusband alters the ordinary to the extent that the ordinary of the detainees’ wives become uncanny.If we look beyond the intangible loss or material absence that detainees’ wives indefinitely live with,we see that the Palestinian meta-narrative is not the only place in which they do not have a presence. As108


stowaways to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict the detainees’ wives are neither bereaved, nor have they lost –they are neither imprisoned, nor are they tortured or traumatised in the literal sense. It is, however, preciselythese proxies of suffering that constitute the standing language, including the part that stems from westernbasedor -funded organisations. Recapitulating the preceding chapter’s conclusion, the criteria for beingknown and acknowledged in the standing language are those of relation, event and immediacy. ThePalestinian wives of detainees meet the criterion of relation, yet their experiences fail the equally importantcriteria of event and immediacy. In that sense their presence in Palestinian society, as well as in internationalpsycho-social discourse, is derivative. For these women, derivative presence and secondary victimisation mergeand form lives at the margins of acknowledgement. The reason for this, I have argued, can be found in how theaffect surrounding the lives of the detainees’ wives become uncanny. Cavell contends that ‘the uncanniness ofthe ordinary is epitomized by the possibility of what philosophy has called skepticism understood (…) as thecapacity, even desire, of ordinary language to repudiate itself-I mean- doesn’t it go without saying –a desire onpart of speakers of a native or mastered tongue who desire to assert themselves and despair of it.’ (1988: 153).Since skepticism towards the ordinary is a returning, uncanny element throughout the present thesis, here Iwish only to introduce what the consequences of the uncanniness of the ordinary to the detainees’ wives mayimply. Skepticism is significant here because of how issues of loss and absence become in different ways part ofthe social relations that actualise the sphere of the domestic, which is often described as the safe haven, a towerthat stands tall through hardship. What I have attempted to convey in this chapter is – as Das has shownelsewhere – that the ordinary is never to be taken for granted (Das 2007). Rather, in Cavell’s words: ‘Theworld must be regained every day, in repetition, regained as gone. Here is a way of seeing what it means thatFreud too thinks of mourning as an essentially repetitive exercise. […] Freud regards mourning as thecondition, that is to say, of allowing its independence from me, its objectivity. Learning mourning may be theachievement of a lifetime’ (Cavell 1988: 172). The uncanniness of the domestic is the slight change thatdisallows the detainees’ wives to mourn, in contrast to the martyr’s widows, for whom the everyday figures asthe site at which recovery after violence is possible. The difference that makes the difference cannot beconceived within the parameters of graduated numerical difference, but necessitates a perspective so attunedto divergence among differences that we can discern the tilts of the ordinary of the detainees’ wives asuncanny. As has been demonstrated throughout this chapter, the notion of affect offers a versatile perspectivefrom which to grasp such differences due to its unstable position between the personal and the political.109


Chapter VEnduring Presents: Living a Prison Sentence as the Wife of a DetaineeI was really worried when I counted how many years will pass without seeing him again, but Iquickly changed these feelings, to be with him in that moment, to love him, to miss him, and to behappy, because I am with him.Aisha’s words are from her diary, describing how she felt when she visited her husband in prison the last timebefore he was sentenced to life and seventy years in an Israeli prison. They both knew that his sentence wouldbe a long one. Taking Aisha’s words as my starting point, I continue the previous chapter’s analysis of thereconfiguration of the ordinary as uncanny, but here with an emphasis on temporality. I investigate how thelived time of the wives of detaineesdetainee is made uncanny, derivatively, through Israeli security proceduresrelated to their husbands’ imprisonment.The chapter evolves around four concerns. First, I elucidate how the specific Israeli securitisation 60procedure of incarcerating Palestinians structures the lives and everyday of detainees’ wives temporally in amanner that is distinct from the temporality of trauma and aftermath described in Chapter III. Second, Ishow that it is ordinary time that becomes uncanny. Third, I analyse how, contrary to the assumption of alinear redemptive aftermath, the securitisation procedures never permit the absence of the women’s husbandsto fade into the background. Fourth, I convey how the absence of the latter and thus the associated violentevents are actualised in every practice the women have to engage in if they wish to stay in touch with theirhusbands. Consequently the women become captives of the immediate present, a present that never becomesa future because, as soon as the women’s practices are have been completed, these practices must be repeated,thereby engendering a temporal contraction. Significantly, there is a slight, almost unnoticeable alteration inthe repetitions, implying that it is never quite the same practice that is repeated. It will thus be shown how it isthe orientation and movement of time that becomes uncanny to the wives of the detainees.The backdrop to this inquiry is the standing language described in Chapter III as the predominantmode of knowing and acknowledging suffering in the occupied territory. It is brought into being throughresonance between a Palestinian meta-narrative and a psychologically informed understanding of the plight ofthe Palestinians as trauma. Arguing that resonance occurs through points of convergence between the twonarratives, one such point is how violence is understood as a temporally limited rupture of the everyday. Thenotion of rupture rests on the assumption of an aftermath where everyday life with time has returned to theordinary. Applied to the detainees’ wives, this means that the time after the men’s incarceration is imagined asa singular duration from which the detainee is absent. If one adheres to a psychological understanding, this60In this thesis, securitisation is employed as a procedure rather than as a theoretical concept. By ‘securitisation procedure’,I thus refer to the procedures laid down by Israel that detainees’ families have to comply with in order to stay intouch with the detainees. By ‘practice’, I refer to the acts that women and families undertake in order to comply with Israelisecuritisation procedures. For a discussion of securitisation, see, for instance, Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde, Security? A NewFramework for Analysis (1998) and Bubandt, Vernacular Security: The Politics of Feeling Safe in Global, National and Local Worlds(2005).110


allows for a fulfilled process of mourning (Freud 1917(1957)) in which the prison sentence is assumed to fadeinto the background, thereby allowing the wives to get on with their lives. However, this mode ofconceptualising life for the wives of detainees does not capture how that life is experienced. This wasexemplified by the therapist Muna’s troubling case of Amina who did not get better, leading Muna to doubtthe therapeutic methods available to her to ameliorate Amina’s life.The idea of suffering as structured by rupture and aftermath appears to contrast with the Palestiniannotion of umūd [steadfastness], of standing tall in the face of affliction, no matter what its temporal andspatial expansion (Sayigh 1993). umūd is thus not structured according to rupture or aftermath. FollowingConnolly (2005), however, I argue that there is resonance between the two understandings of the structure ofsuffering: In the psychological discourse, the aftermath is what allows the afflicted person to move on; in thePalestinian meta-narrative, on the other hand, umūd obliges the victim to go on with ordinary life and toendure whatever is inflicted upon oneself or one’s family. 61 The idea of time and the everyday as redemptivethus underlie both the global and the Palestinian modes of imagining the sufferings of the Palestinians.In analysing the temporal configuration of the detainees’ wives’ lives, I draw on concepts fromBergson, mainly through Deleuze’s reading of him (1988). This is complemented by Hodges’ reflections onBergson’s value for a temporal ontology in anthropology (Hodges 2008). The most significant term in myanalysis of the lived time of the families of the detainees is Bergson’s notion of duration. 62 As will becomeclear, duration allows suffering whose temporality does not follow the linear structure intrinsic to the idea ofevent, rupture and aftermath to be comprehended (Deleuze 1988: 37).According to Bergson, duration has a dual meaning: the duration of lived experience, or the span ofa singular life. In addition, duration is the ‘condition of experience’ that is made up by multiplicities of timeand space (Deleuze ibid.). Crucial to the understanding of duration is therefore Bergson’s distinction betweenthe virtual and the actual:In other words, the subjective, or duration, is the virtual. To be more precise, it is the virtual insofar as it is actualised,in the course of being actualised; it is inseparable from the movement of its actualization. For actualisationcomes around through differentiation, through divergent lines, and creates so many differences in kindby virtue of its own movement (Deleuze 1988: 43). […] On the other hand, a non-numerical multiplicity bywhich duration or subjectivity is defined, plunges into another dimension, which is no longer spatial and ispurely temporal: it moves from the virtual to its actualisation, it actualises itself by creating lines of differentiationthat correspond to its differences in kind (ibid.).61For a discussion of umd in relation to trauma see for instance Afana, Pedersen, Kirmayer, & Ronsbo in press.The authors compare Palestinian aetiology of suffering with the Western notion of trauma arguing that local expressions ofaffliction and coping are not contained in ‘trauma’. Whereas I agree that there is not a one to one relationship between thesetwo, the argument made above is that there is a resonance between them.62 Duration ‘encloses and enables lived experience but remains inaccessible to objective human representation. Thisreveals the partially determined, but inherently relational, cultural and individualized nature of sociality and lived experience,as la durée underpins human existence and the physical conditions which shape it; while the experience, appropriation andrepresentation of “time” reside largely in the domain of everyday practice, neurological, cognitive and embodied processing,and, ultimately, individual “moments of being”’ (Hodges 2008: 14).111


As this quote from Bergsonism shows, the virtual equals duration. It is subjective, in the sense that it isinclusive of the subjective. In Deleuze’s words elsewhere, ‘The virtual is therefore real without being actual,ideal without being abstract’ (Deleuze 1990: 264). As such, the actual can never be separated from the processof actualisation. Actualisation occurs when duration creates lines of differentiation whose numericaldifferences correspond to the differences in degree. The differences between time and space that, on the otherhand, are part of the virtual denote the differences in kind. It is pertinent to understand that it is the virtualthat allows for actualisation, not the virtual that is actualised.Intrinsic to the notion of duration is the opposition between contraction and dilation (Deleuze 1988: 21, 75).Contraction is described as the most contracted degree of the past and thus refers to the relationship betweenthe past and the present (Deleuze 1988: 75). Dilation, on the other hand, is matter as ‘the most relaxed degreeof the present’ (ibid.). The latter contains a reference to Bergson’s distinction between matter and memory(Bergson 1912), which concerns the fundamental distinction between space and time. Bergson’s contributionto philosophy is to turn away from space and towards temporality as the key to understanding the conditionof experience rather than experience in itself (Deleuze 1988: 27). Stating that the realm of matter is dilated asopposed to duration as the realm of contraction takes us to the heart of Bergson’s overturning of the empiricistparadigm in which we are used to thinking of the empirical, the actual material world as that which is themost real. However, the intertwining of the realms of the actual and the virtual should not be disregardedwhen reading his arguably dualist thinking. The most significant property of Bergsonian dualisms is the factthat they exist only as momentary differentiations that can be actualised. Thus both matter and duration arecontained within the notion of duration. To Bergson it is of the utmost concern that the multiplicities that areconstantly differentiated in duration are not numerical. In Deleuze’s words, this means that ‘There is otherwithout there being several’ (Deleuze 1988: 42).These theoretical concepts will serve me in unfolding analytically how Israeli incarceration ofPalestinians actualises a particular everyday temporality for the detainees’ wives. Endeavouring to understandhow the condition of experience relates to the experience of the detainees’ wives, I will employ aspects ofCavell’s analysis of tragedy involving knowledge of the other (Cavell 1988). The notion of the subject as amultiplicity in Bergson and Deleuze and as figure and self in Cavell appears to render the two approachesontologically irreconcilable. As I will show, however, the divergence of the two approaches is prolific infurthering understanding of the configuration of time and affect during a prison sentence for those who arerelated to the incarcerated.V.I A Prison VisitThe following describes one such contraction of time simultaneously encompassed and stretching beyond aPalestinian woman’s visit to her husband who is detained in an Israeli prison. The visit lasts forty-five minutes.shortThe TV screen in the front of the bus repeats the same cartoon show for the fifth time: an Arabicdubbed version of Donald Duck as a cowboy. The cartoon lasts for twenty-five minutes. After abreak on the flickering screen, when the passengers of the bus glance out at the lush orange groves112


olling by, all heads turn to the screen when the introductory tune sets in. Again.The passengers have been on their feet since four in the morning, eager to make it from the villagesin the southern West Bank to the central pick up point in Ramallah at seven. Whereas the prisonvisits are organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the family visitsoffice in Jerusalem, the coach belongs to a local, Palestinian bus company. When all the familieshave gathered in Ramallah, the bus drives the few miles to the Check Point of Qalandia, the biggestterminal for people moving between the Occupied Territory, the West Bank, and Israel. To beallowed to pass, people need a blue Jerusalem ID, which one holds in the case of permanentresidency in Jerusalem. None of the passengers have that. They hold the green Palestinian IDand a temporary permit to enter Israel, for the duration of the visit to their sons, fathers orhusbands detained in an Israeli prison. Despite the permits, it takes two and a half hoursbefore the passengers are all in place on the bus in the parking space on the Israeli side of QalandiaTerminal. In situ are also the Israeli, discretely armed police officers who will be escortingthe bus through Israel to Bersheva Prison in Ashkelon. The police officers observe the bus driversgetting the passengers on to the bus, making sure that none of them skip the visit and instead enterthe Jerusalem they are not allowed to be in. A main task of the police officers is to make surethat no one gets off the bus during the trip. Whether the trip takes two or five hours, the bus isnot allowed to stop. This means that the passengers’ only opportunity to use the bathroomfacilities is the soiled public bathrooms at Qalandia terminal.Even though people are impatient for the remaining passengers to be allowed through thecheckpoints, everyone knows the routine. They know that the bus will eventually go on, butthey do not know if it will be in ten minutes or two hours. The atmosphere on the bus seems tobe one of resigned impatience and of lingering dissatisfaction. The sound of occasional sighsfills the air, yet there are no signs of any intention to try to influence the situation.Thus, when the bus finally moves off, the relief is almost tangible. For a while the bus comes to life,talk and free breathing now taking over the soundscape inside it. The boys and girls have beenmunching biscuits, chocolate and crisps for the last few hours. Their mothers restrict theirdrinking. The children speak, but after a while the cartoon occupies them. There is little talkamong the women on the bus. I am sitting next to Fatemeh, an interlocutor of mine on her wayto visit her imprisoned husband. She has not visited him for four years; only her son Hassan,who is now almost seven, has seen his father regularly, together with Fatemeh’s mother- in-law.Throughout the years, Hassan has brought back letters from Hassan’s father to his mother from theprison visits. Hassan never carries letters back to his father. Fatemeh cannot be asked to write backanymore, ‘to tell him what?’, she said to me: ‘Nothing new happens here’. Fatemeh is twenty-eightyears old. The other women in the village says she is different, you can tell she is from Amman, byway of her ultra-smart clothing, her slimness and, for a village woman and the wife of a detainee,her plentiful use of black kohl around her eyes. She is in a new green djallabia, 63 with a matching63A djallabia is a popular form of modest dress among Palestinian Muslim women. It is a long, sometimes discretelytailored, button-down coat whose material is adapted to the changing seasons of the year.113


light yellow hijab. 64 Her clothes and her way of carrying herself are often the topic of conversation among theother women of the group of five detainee’s wives from Dar Nūra. And when her name is mentioned in thecompany of the women’s families, glances are exchanged. Mervat, for instance, likes Fatemeh but refrains fromsocialising with her due to Fatemeh’s reputation for being suspiciously occupied with her looks for a detainee’swife. Fatemeh does not speak a lot on the trip; she is nervous, bored by the long drive and by Hassan’sdemands for sweets. She looks out on the Israel she is not allowed to be in. Her only way of being here is in thebus, on the way to the prison where her husband is being detained for political activities that threaten thesecurity of the state of Israel. His sentence is seventeen years, of which he has served seven. Hassan was threemonths old on the night the Israeli Army detained his father.Reaching Ashkelon, the women pack up their bags busily, checking their looks in the reflection ofthe bus windows and scolding their children for looking scruffy already. When the bus stops infront of the prison blocks, the passengers get off the bus and enter the visitors’ entrance to theprison, escorted by the policeman. Fathemeh’s cheeks blush, she smoothes out her djallabiaand straightens Hassan’s hair. I am not allowed to enter the prison with the families, so I wait ina dreary café across the road from the prison. I can hear the nervously excited voices of thewomen and children in the visitor’s hall.A couple of hours later, the families return to the bus, accompanied by the sound of a siren becauseQassam rockets launched from Gaza are nearing Ashkelon. The passengers seem disoriented. Aftera while the siren stops, and the drivers let us know that the rockets did not hit a target. There is anawkward feeling of relief, as well as guilt at feeling just that. The faces of the women and theirchildren display different emotions and the withholding of them: tiredness, disappointment, joy.One woman is very quiet. Fatemeh nods in her direction and says in a whisper that it was thewoman’s turn to see her husband just when the siren sounded. Due to the security threat of therockets, the remaining family visits were cancelled and the families sent back outside to the bus. Thebus ride back home is quiet. Nobody speaks, and the air is heavy with emotion. Fatemeh and Ispeak only a little, she being her usual private, observing and silent self. Emotional and reflexiveabout the visit, Fatemeh falls asleep shortly after the bus moves off, every now and again looking atthe cartoon show or out of the window. Asking her how it was to see her husband’s face, shesays with a shrug and smile, ‘ordinary).ilu’ (beautiful/lovely (m)). A while after, she adds ādi (normal,When Fatemeh goes to the grocers over the next few days back in the village or meets other detainees’ wives,she will be met with questions like kīf al-asīr, (how is the detainee)? gaddeš sana (how many years)? wēn-o(where is he)? These questions point to the familiarity among the families of detainees with the proceedings ofthe visit described above and the steps leading to those forty-five minutes of conjugal connection that makesup a prison visit. These steps and what they achieve serve as a reference point for the contraction of time that, Iargue, incarceration brings about in the lives of the detainees’ wives. The repetitiveness of these contractions is64Hijab is the Arab term for the headscarf that seem to have become emblematic of the modest way of dressingamong Muslim women worldwide (cf. Abu-Lughod 2002).114


implied in how the questions have been asked and will be asked again before and after every visit Fatemeh hascarried out and will carry out in the future.Empirically the women’s questions oriented towards the prison visits can be seen as an actualisationof the derivative effects of Israeli securitisation procedures concerning the 6,891 Palestinian detainees in Israeliprisons (Btselem 2009), of which Fatemeh’s husband is but one. Through the practices involved in eithertrying to get the detainees released or arranging to visit them, the everyday and the lived time of the detainees’families emerge as an actualisation of the conditions implied in the enduring Israeli security measures in whichPalestinian men are detained in order to secure Israeli citizens. The women’s questions concerning thedetainees therefore allude to how the Israeli securitisation procedures are embedded in everyday interactionsand concerns in the detainees’ families and how they point to the contractions of time that occur as a residueof Israeli security concerns. This supports Kelly’s contention that mundane bureaucratic practices dominatelife in the West Bank: life is not all blood and violence (Kelly 2007: 5). What is significant about theseprocedures, Kelly suggests, is that they are disputed, volatile and negotiable. It is capriciousness that creates theviolence and tensions that mould everyday life for Palestinians in the West Bank (2007: 15). This mostcertainly applies to certain instantiations of Israeli law that my interlocutors are also faced with. The particularsecuritisation procedure of incarceration, however, shows how bureaucratic procedures in fact shape thetexture of a temporality that appears negotiable due to the possibility of mounting a lawsuit against Israel oran appeal to have one’s husband released. Nonetheless, for the detainees and their relatives such apparent legalpossibilities are rarely successful.In the ethnographic account below, I analyse the experiences of time that are intrinsic to beingrelated to a detainee in Israel. I examine in detail three instances of temporal contraction arising from thewomen’s questions to Fatemeh concerning her husband, the detainee. Due to the significance of howparticular questions refer to the relation of time to the ordinary, the questions emphasised here are how is thedetainee, how long is his sentence, and where is he? Lastly, I ponder what the future can be taken to mean forthe wives of the detainees.V.II kīf al-asīr [how is the detainee]?The most widely used phrase in Palestinian vernacular when you meet someone is ‘kīfik, šu a bārik’ (f ), whichmeans ‘how are you, what is your news?’ The answer to this question if a person is feeling well is ‘mnī a’ (f ),meaning ‘good’, or ‘tamām’, which can be translated as ‘all right’. If someone is feeling OK but only just, thereply would be ‘māši il- āl,’ which literally means ‘it goes’. If people are close to each other and find themselvesin an appropriate social space, deeper probing into the well-being of the other can take place. Mostly, however,the conversation is closed then and there, no matter what the answer.Among the detainees’ female relatives and people they encounter who know of their situation, it is acourtesy always to ask as the first question after ‘kīfik, šu a bārik?: ‘kīf al-asīr’, ‘how is the detainee?’ This isregardless of whether it is his wife or mother speaking. The answer to the question varies but can be said tofollow an almost standardised set of sequences, which includes an account of how bad the food is in theprison, as well as if and how the detainee is tortured during interrogation or ordinary prison procedures. An115


issue that is always mentioned is the family’s challenges in finding a way to ensure that the detainee actuallyreceives the gifts of clothes, shoes and cigarettes they send to him. These accounts end with the speakershrugging while she asks ‘Šu mn-sawwi’, ‘what can we do/what do we do?’ The latter question belongs to thegenre of accounts that concern one or more aspects of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, asdescribed in Chapters III and IV (cf. Jayyusi 2007). The despondency intrinsic to the question in fact takesaway the words’ quality as a question, indicating instead the resigned acceptance and recognition that there isnothing that can be done about the occupation as a whole and about the particular detainee’s situation. Theobligatory practice of enquiring how the detainee is and answering as described entails a most significantacknowledgement that the detainee is suffering more than anyone else and for the collective of Palestinians,due to his incarceration in Israel.In his analysis of Palestinian detainees incarcerated between 1967 and 1993, Nashif (2008) writesthat stories are told in and about the collective, and not as stories about individuals (2008: 78, 206). Hisinterlocutors were actual ex-detainees from that period. The historical boundaries of Nashif ’s analysis providea vital backdrop in understanding his argument. The detainees he is writing about were among the PalestineLiberation Organisation generation, whose aim it was to build a responsible, national community that wouldone day take over the leadership of a Palestinian state (2008: 29). As Nashif shows, the Israeli prisons werecentres of education, of a rising collective awareness and not least of community building among the detainees(Nashif 2008: 70). Notably, the detainees from that period were received as other than symbolic heroes whenthey were released. They were granted positions in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and theMinistry of Ex-Detainees and Detainees’ Affairs was formed by the ex-detainees themselves. It is of vitalsignificance that this all happened in the years just after the 1993 Oslo Accords, at a time when, arguably, amomentum of hope, albeit brief, existed among its proponents. The Ministry still exists, but its influence andfunding have decreased significantly over the years, as one spokesman told me. The Fata - dominatedgovernment of in the West Bank tries to raise awareness regarding the conditions of the detainees, forinstance, by arranging a conference about the detainees’ affairs in Jericho in 2009. 65 A conference similar tothis took place in November 2007 arranged by the United against Torture Coalition of Palestinian and Israeliorganisations and hosted by a Fata -oriented centre that supports the detainees. Participating by mistake in aplanning meeting of the conference, I overheard the committee discussing whether the topic of detainees froma rival party would be acceptable at the conference, and the atmosphere told me that it was clearly not. On theoccasion of the conference itself, during which representatives of Palestinian human rights NGOs were highlyvisible, the tensions within the detainees’ movement appeared remote from the community described byNashif as having been born out of the colonial prison (2008).Currently, the collective appeal of revolution within the detainees’ movement and toward thePalestinian population respectively sounds hollow due to the general deterioration of Palestinian institutionsafter al-Intifā a al-Aqsa, the factional splits and the lack of hope of a change for the better. These issues are65For a description of the conference, see the homepage of the Palestinian News Agency (Maan News 2009)http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=227713116


increasingly recognised and formulated, if only in intimate or ‘safe’ social forums. 66 The fact that these cracksin the detainees’ community are not present in Nashif ’s analysis has to do with the historical period to whichthe detainees that are the focus of his study belonged. As Kelly has pointed out, post-Oslo Palestine is hauntedby tensions that create violence, not only towards Israelis but internally among Palestinians too (Kelly 2007).This, he argues, is due to the attempts at legal separation and territorial integration between Israel and theWest Bank (ibid.).Among my interlocutors, the narratives told and retold about detainees in the occupied territoryare composed differently from those that make up the subject matter of Nashif ’s research. Rather than beingstories about the collective and the community, the narratives about the detainees across political factions arestories that contain lead parts and co-actors. The lead part is the detainee himself, 67 cast in the context ofnational struggle. The national struggle thus figures, but only as a context. This shows in how the story isnarrated. For instance, there is Amina’s story of how her husband was detained, and below it an extract from aconversation between Mervat and Weeam about how their husbands think about their political activitiesduring incarceration:The next day we turned on the radio because we didn’t have electricity to watch the news on TV.We wanted to understand why all of this is happening. They said [on TV] that four houses hadbeen destroyed in Dar Nūra and they arrested Basil, my husband, so when I heard that, I do notremember what I did. And the next day I kept laughing, I don't know why, and then I startedcrying, you know, they destroyed my house and they took my husband and my brothers. Ihave small kids, and his family is not here, so I did not know what to do, it was a very big shock. Iwant to forget what happened, but I cannot. After that we went to our destroyed house tosee if we could find anything, but nothing was there, everything was gone. And then myhusband tried to call the Salib al-Ahmar [Red Cross] to tell them that he is OK, and that hewanted a lawyer, and to not be worried. And then he stayed in the prison for five years where Icould not see him, just once in the court, I saw him once. And I tried a lot to get a permissionto visit him, but it is not working, it was difficult, but now I can visit him, it is getting better.Mervat: They care about Palestine, and for fighting for it, but after that, when they are in the prison,they feel it. He [her husband] told me, When I am released I will make it up to you. I told him,When you get out you are never going to be able to make up one day of those days that you left usalone.Weeam: Yes, they regretted all those days not being with us. And because he experienced a lifewithout a father before, he now feels with his kids. And his mother, she was so sad about him, she66For a discussion of the uncertainty and risk of falling subject to rumour, see Das, Chapter 7, ‘In the region ofrumour’ (2007).67Just around 1,3 percent of the detainees are women, therefore I write about the detainees as masculine. And aspointed to by Nashif (Nashif 2008; 18) and Massad (Massad 1995) the Palestinian national project is a male.117


would look at his picture and start crying.Amina’s story opens with the night the Israeli army captured her husband and the details of his struggle orflight from them. Then her husband’s transfer between different prisons in Israel is mentioned, a fact thatcauses families much despair, since they do not know where their husbands are. Often a story about a detaineewill also include a list of the ailments inflicted upon him during incarceration. For instance, when I stopped byWeeam, from time to time she would brief me about the pain in her detained husband’s ears. Similarly, themother of a detainee from a village nearby recounted in detail to Rawan and I how her son’s teeth haddeteriorated alarmingly during his imprisonment in Israel. In the first instance it was due to torture, 68 in thesecond because of the lack of medical care available in Israeli prisons. In Weeam’s and Mervat’s conversations,we see how political activities slide into the background at the cost of the detainees and their husbands’reflections on the costs of their activities for their families and themselves.The individual as a centre of gravity for his family’s narratives is underlined through the way inwhich a detainee forms part of every conversation his family engages in, as illustrated by the question ‘kīf alasīr’that always initiates a conversation taking place in the street, at work or in domestic forums. The leadingpart occupied by a detainee is underlined when a conversation about him takes place within the vital space ofrepresentation of the family and self within the domestic sphere, the living room as depicted in the precedingchapter. Whereas displays of photos and posters figure among both martyrs’ and detainees’ families, the livingrooms of the families of detainees tend to be decorated with paraphernalia made by the detainee during hisincarceration. Such paraphernalia on display includes embroidery, pearl handicraft or drawings. What isinteresting about these objects is that they vary only slightly between households. Exact copies of suchobjectsare on display at the Abu Jihad Museum for the Prisoners’ Affairs Movement in Abu Dis, where, forinstance, the ship ‘Al Safina’ is displayed, which people told me was a Palestinian national symbol ofentrapment and loss ( Jabra 1979). When I discussed this matter with Professor Sharif Kanaana, he contendedthat the ship is no less a Palestinian than a universal symbol (personal communication, September 2009).Models of the ship are often made out of matches, matchboxes and coloured yarn. The objects made by theincarcerated are displayed on a pedestal in as-salon (the guest room) or sometimes they even occupy the centreof the room, the coffee table between the couches. In photographs the detainee is mostly portrayedindividually, unless the family happens to have two or more family members in the same Israeli prison. Theobjects are manufactured by the detainee personally, although his fellow inmates will be making similarobjects for their families. In this way, Palestinian national artefacts become a by-product of the colonialprisons, objects that are invested with affect configured by Israeli securitisation procedures. 69In agreement with Nashif, I therefore suggest that individual narratives about the detainees draw onand feed into a collective genre of detainees’ narratives. But the content of these shared stories emphasises the68The interlocutor in question was a client at the Prisoners’ Support Centre, who was thus aware of the alleged tortureof her son. The centre has an opportunity to involve the Israeli organisation Public Committee Against TortureIsrael in a lawsuit against the Israeli state. I do not know whether the torture described by the interlocutor wasactually such, as it is understood in vernacular terms, which, as described in Chapter II, does not necessarily implyhow torture is defined according to the UN.69I owe this insight to a conversation with Dr Henrik Rønsbo.118


acts and whereabouts of the individual Palestinian detainee. The difference between Nashif and my analysis isrelated to the historicity of his particular interlocutors and the current, collective fatigue with which moresuffering, more martyrs and more detainees are registered among Palestinians. A further reason why thecollective struggle is a figure of the story of the detainees themselves, as opposed to being the basis of thestories of their families, may be the proliferation of the national cause as meaningful inside the prison. Amongmy interlocutors, it seems that over time this meaning has given way to the destitution that the detainee’sabsence detaineecauses his family emotionally, socially and financially too. Exercising that much influence inabsentia, the detainee inevitably appears as the focus of his family’s narrative.The emphasis on the detainee in narratives told in and about his family can be said to elicit only afractal of the family’s identity, so that it becomes the family of a detainee rather than, say, the family owningthe finest olive groves in the area. With the term ‘fractal’, I am again employing Strathern’s analyticalframework as described in the introduction. To recapitulate, the notion of the fractal refers to how persons areconstituted by relations (Strathern 2004). Every person can therefore said to embody a fractal of this entirerelational universe. Normally, these fractals change according to which relationship a person finds himself in.As such, one relational constellation elicits a particular fractal of that person, whereas all the other fractals alsoconstituting that person are eclipsed or obscured (2004: 80).The elicitation of only the fractal related to the detainee is actualised through the detainee’s family’snarrative practice, that delineates the fractals by which they are identified. The detainees’ families are thusdefined by the detainee, a definition that is actualised in every narrative account or simply by answering thequestion, ‘kīf al-asīr’ (how is the detainee)). This question stresses how identifying a family as the family of adetainee is actualised in social practice. Whereas being identified through connection is stressed when a familyis related to a detainee, relationality is intrinsic to the Palestinian notion of kinship, 70 which Joseph calls‘patriarchal connectivity’ ( Joseph 1999).Relational identification is also elicited the case a family is related to a šahīd. As noted in thepreceding chapter, the narratives available to be told about a martyr are less ambiguous than those that can betold about a detainee. Because the martyr is dead, there are no grounds for suspicion that he might still give into the pressure of interrogation or become a traitor collaborating with Israel (Kelly 2010). The temporality ofa šahīd comprises a finitude that is reflected in the composite of closure and of eternal but transformedpresence narrated by his relatives and discussed in the previous chapter. It is this finitude that allows his loss tobe mourned (Freud 1917 (1957)). In contrast, the moment of a detainees’ family’s narration actualises acontraction of the family’s temporality: Since the family repeatedly encounters and answers the samequestions, and because the narrative of the detainee belongs to a certain genre of telling about suffering, thenarrative event actualises a contraction of the family’s lived temporality to evolve around the temporality ofthe detainee: when did he last see a lawyer, when was he interrogated, when is the next time they can bringhim presents? A detainee’s absence thus makes him present in the everyday temporality of his family throughthe way in which his family repeatedly narrativises his incarceration. In this manner, every narration actualisesa return of the violent event that figuratively reappears as the contracting mechanism of past and70For further discussion of Palestinian kinship, see the introduction, part I.V, and Chapter VI, ‘Hard Things MakePeople Closer’.119


present.The contraction of lived temporality circulating around a detainee is enmeshed with affect. Thescenarios in which affect is configured are the narrations of the detainee in the home as well as in public.Affect is moreover configured through the display of artefacts produced inside or outside the prison, butalways with a reference to the man as the detainee. However, these affective configurations are less clear-cutthan national discourse of honour in being related to a hero suggests. The nationalised symbolic imaginarythat adds glory to the family of a detainee therefore interferes with the stories of suspicion circulating in andaround the very same family.An actualisation of such affective contraction occurred one day in the house of Aisha’s family-inlaw.Her mother-in-law, Imm Ahmad, was finishing an account of being a mother to a most prominentdetainee. Following the sequencing of the narrative described above, Imm Ahmad asked her grandchild,Aisha’s eleven-year-old daughter Zeinab, who had come into the living room a few minutes before, to fetch aship made by Imm Ahmad’s son, Ahmad. While showing it to my assistant Rawan and I, Zeinab started tellingus how her latest visit to her father went. Her grandmother nodded approvingly. Mentioning the duration ofhis sentence, Zeynab said, ‘Ehab’s dad gave into pressure during interrogation; it was his fault my dad has to bethere forever’. Her grandmother gave Zeinab a stern look, since the girl had clearly revealed a less glorious sideof being related to a detainee, namely the accounts of detainees belonging to what Das calls ‘the region ofrumour’ (2007). This confirmed that alternative accounts to those described by Nashif, of the collective andcelebrated community of the Palestinian detainees, did in fact circulate.The scene in Imm Nour’s living room addresses the unsettled nature of the detainee as a figure bothknown and unknown by his relatives and the community. In this sense, the above incident can becomprehended through Parrot’s findings that the objects through which a deceased person is commemoratedare less stale remainders of his lived presence than they contest both his past and current presence in the life ofhis family (Parrot 2010). Due to the affect of finitude that proliferates around aš-šahīd, Parrot’s contentionappears more apt with regard to the living al-asra’ than to the deceased aš-šuhada’ in the occupied territory.Understanding the imprisoned figure and how he is known rather than the affective configurationaround him demands an analytical leap from the circulation of affect to the human figures living such affect.To know another human being is the subject of inquiry in Cavell’s study of tragedy: ‘both Othello and TheWinter’s Tale are about a harrowing of the power of knowing the other’s existence (as chaste, intact as whatthe knower knows his other to be)’ (Cavell 1979: 481). In Cavell’s understanding, knowing another humanbeing occurs through the body because the body is ‘the field of expression of the soul (Cavell 1979: 386).Whereas this may appear crude in the light of contemporary thinking on the relationship between body andmind and body and soul (cf. Csordas 1994, 2008; Willerslev and Pedersen 2009), it is important to underlinehow exactly Cavell ponders this issue. In his interpretation of Othello outlined in the introduction, Othello’ssense of skepticism occurred due to the failure of the human body to provide evidence that Desdemona wasfaithful to him. Whereas skepticism and doubt in the human body thus denote the existence of Othello, thebody is, according to Cavell, all we have in order to forfeit doubt that the other is human. Othello’s inability toacknowledge this resides in his denial of the body as intrinsically imperfect and as an incomplete mirror of thehuman soul (Cavell 1979: 493).120


I suggest that we think of the body of a martyr as countering the skepticism intrinsic in theimperfect relationship between the body and the soul, an imperfection that the human being comprises inboth his presence and his absence from the life of those related to him. Upon his death, the martyr’s soul isreleased from its intricate relationship to the human body. His body has thus gone, though his soul remains. Incontrast, in the present case the detainee’s body has not gone, it is displaced and continues to give rise todoubt regarding, for instance, who is the person who used to be a husband, a father and a son, but is now justan absent, heroic detainee? The detainee’s presence being brought about by his absence is all that allows hisfamily to know him because his body is neither present nor finally gone, as in the case of the martyr (cf. Buch2010). In this sense, the relationship between the detainee’s body and his soul is unhinged as in the case of themartyr, but detainee the relationship between his body and soul is still unsettled. This unsettled and unhingedknowledge about the detainee is harrowing for his relatives. The harrowing is brought about through theinterstice between the body’s temporary displacement and the undecided presence of the detainees’ soul. Wemight tentatively consider the harrowing interstice as allowing skepticism to enter the captive conjugate, apoint I will investigate further in Chapter VII. The standardised modes of speaking about the detainee can beunderstood as a protection against this skepticism, which is orchestrated through repetitive questions andanswers in the exchange of knowledge about the detainee. However, it is a form of protection in whose cracksrumour resides.V.III Gaddeš Sana [how many years]?The notion that imprisonment actualises a sense of structure well known to everybody with a family memberin prison will emerge in this section. I will show how detainees’ families know what to do, in which office toapply for visitors’ permits, what to worry about and what to talk about with other people. As will be madeapparent, these very practices of sustaining contact with a family member structure the everyday chores andtherefore the orientation of the subjects who engage in these chores, thus bringing about an unimpededcommitment to the present.With sentences varying between fifteen years and life, life for the detainees’ families is structuredthe same way for many years in succession. Yet, receiving a sentence means something else than a life that fallsinto a set structure of practices. For Aisha, the thirty-three-year old, well-respected and politically activecommunity leader, the day her husband was sentenced in the high court in Jerusalem was a blow. I was sittingin the living room in Amina’s house, my home in the village, chatting with Amina, when we heard the soundof Aisha’s old Mercedes. Aisha came in and kissed us all hello. But at the moment of her peck on our cheeksshe did her utmost to avoid eye and physical contact. This happens among strangers or people with little likingfor each other, but the crowd in the living room, including me, consisted of people who ‘knew’ Aisha, peoplewhom she cared about and whom she could relax with. It was, however, also a crowd in which Amina, theother detainee’s wife, and myself knew about the feelings that Aisha took great care to hide from her otherwisepublic figure. Today she was different, and we knew why. We asked about her father-in-law, who had beenadmitted to hospital. This was clearly Amina’s and my attempt to avoid the sensitive topic of the sentencing ofAisha’s husband, but instead we jumped straight at it: everyone knew that her father-in-law’s heart attackhappened the day after his son had received his sentence: life. To Aisha, the sentence changed everything. Any121


hope of a future together with her husband and the father of her two children evaporated. Whereas a sentencefor a certain number of years, though mistakenly, appear to have a finite end, the infinity of the sentence forAisha’s husband cut her off definitively from the future she imagined. This distinction rests on the fact that‘starting anew’ is not a possibility for wives who are married to political detainees. Legally it is possible todivorce one’s husband, but if a detainee’s wife does this she loses the right to her children. She will thendepend on her maternal family to take financial care of her, which, on top of the shame involved, is itself aburden for them.For Aisha, however, the removal of her future horizon was not due to these issues, since she canprovide for herself, but rests on her affection for her husband, since theirs is a companionate marriage. Aishatold me the story of their friendship, since they were both fifteen years old and both politically committed. Atthat time it was not proper for her to marry exogamously, since then as now patrilateral parallel first-cousinmarriage is considered the ideal marriage in the occupied territory (Muhawi and Kanaana 1989). As stated byLamis Abu Nahleh, Penny Johnson and Annelies Moors the years around the first Intifada witnessed a newform of marriage namely the socalled political marriages which was based on the political status of a potentialspouse rather than his or her agnatic line (Abu-Nahleh, Johnson and Moors 2009). From the descriptionabove I do not hesitate to categorise the marriage between Aisha and Ahmad as a political marriage. Theyfinally obtained the agreement of both their families and shared their time at the university, as well as workingtogether politically. He was detained many times due to this work, and this last time for life. In his actualabsence from her everyday, Aisha can still do all the things she would with him – travel, build a house, takegood care of the children – but she will do them alone. In spite of her relatively high social position, she isnonetheless as vulnerable to rumour as any of her peers. And, due to the sentence, even intimacy is bound upwith the rules regarding prison visits laid down by Israel. Simultaneously with this change in Aisha’s future,her husband’s sentence, conveniently perhaps, demands that she is entirely orientated towards lawyers’appointments and the hope of release that is always there because of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations over thefate of the detainees. In this regard there is no difference in kind between a long-term prison sentence and alife sentence like that between a martyr and a detainee described in the last chapter. Rather, the differencebetween the two sentences is a matter of degree.This speaks to Kelly’s argument that it is the volatility and uncertainty of law in Israel and theoccupied territory that shape the everyday as uncertain and tense (Kelly 2007), even the everyday with a lifesentence, like that of Aisha’s husband. Whereas the everyday – not only for Aisha, but for other wives too – issaturated by uncertainty, this uncertainty is not unpredictable. I suggest that, in the case of the detainees’wives, uncertainty is predictable. It is also repetitive, albeit a differentiated repetition. For instance, Aisha’shusband is a high security detainee. Although he is being detained for life, the uncertainties involved in hiscaptivity, such as the appeal to shorten his sentence, his current location and the negotiation of visitationpermits, demands that Aisha, like other detainees’ wives, repeats the described practices to stay in touch withhim. If his case is dismissed in court, she has to start all over again, not knowing whether there is any chance ofhim being released. But she knows the procedures. Due to the detainee’s wives’ necessary involvement in suchpractices, we can think of Israeli securitisation practices as repeatedly actualising Aisha’s status as married to adetainee, rather than the multiplicity of aspects she could also be identified by.122


Aisha exemplifies Wittgenstein’s notion of aspect blindness, which refers to how we knowsomething through knowing only a particular aspect of that thing (cf. Cavell 1979: 356). This is a furtherpoint where there is a resonance between the two seemingly contrasting theoretical strands that makes up myanalytical framework. Whereas Strathern’s notion of the eliciting and eclipsing of fractal identity is concernedwith configuration, Wittgenstein’s notion of aspect blindness is concerned with the actual figures that appear.Wittgenstein illustrates aspect blindness through the well-known drawing of the duck and the rabbit, whereboth figures are in the drawing, but where seeing one means being blinded towards the other (ibid.). In Aisha’scase, this means that she is known only as a detainee’s wife, rather than as the multitude of other aspects herperson contains. Importantly, it is the practices that she engages in which cause aspect blindness. Thisresonates with the effects of the narrative practices of the detainees’ families: all that figures is the family or theindividual woman’s relationship to a hero.The important conclusion in this part of the chapter, however, concerns temporality. The demandto be oriented towards Israeli securitisation procedures actualises the lives of Aisha and of detainees’ wives ingeneral as endured in the present, within the now that supposedly ends with achieving a particular practice of,say, receiving permission to visit. To the detainees’ wives, however, the present does not turn into the pastbecause at the actual instant permission is granted for a visit, Aisha has to repeat the entire set of procedures inorder for her to stay in touch with her husband. Practices such as visits or permissions achieved are on the faceof it markers of progression. In the case of the detainees’ wives, the fact that these practices need to beconstantly repeated hampers temporal progression.Rather than bringing about a sense of duration, the circumstance of lengthy incarceration thereforeactualises time as contraction: the lives of detainees’ wives remain in the present. The implications of beingcaptured in the contraction of a life to the present show how the uncertainty of not knowing interruptstemporality as linear. In this manner, the lives of detainees’ wives question anthropological understandings ofnarrated time as progressive (cf. Holland and Peacock 1993; Ochs and Capps 1996), as well as contesting theclinical understanding in which a traumatic, possibly violent incident is followed by a redemptive aftermath.The implication of living a life that is temporally non-linear is examined next.IV.IV Wen-o? {where is he}Related to the opening description of how the forty-five minute visit can be the actualisation of months,sometimes years of preparation, Amina showed me photos of herself taken on the occasion of her daughter’sengagement. The photos were intended for her husband: she was not wearing the hijab, and she glancedincitingly into the camera. Amina was excited: she was going to show them to her husband on the next prisonvisit. Since the prison visits take place in a big room where the detainees are lined up in a row behind glass, thefamilies stand shoved together on the other side. The photos are thus as close to physical intimacy as ahusband and wife can get. When I saw Amina a couple of days later, I asked her how the visit went. Sheanswered with a ‘tsk’, the culturally familiar shrug and lifting of one’s head, instead of saying ‘no’ in words. Sheexplained that he was not there, that he had been moved to another prison, which she and allegedly, althoughshe did not believe it, the International Committee of the Red Cross did not know. The trip, the photos andthe expectations had been in vain. Šu- basawwi? (what can I do?), Amina said, returning to kneading her123


dough. As stated above, her question implies the tacit knowledge that she can do very little in order to bringabout change. To find out where her husband is, Amina must go through the International Committee of theRed Cross. The detainees’ families have to enquire at the local office in the West Bank, whose officers then getin touch with the main International Committee of the Red Cross Family Visits office in Jerusalem. TheFamily Visit’s office then contacts the Israeli prison authorities, who, according to the families, may or may notinform the Committee. The role of the International Committee of the Red Cross is intricate in the context ofthe detainees’ families. Through messaging and visiting detainees, the International Committee of the RedCross makes sure that the obligation under international law to keep families connected (ICRC 2009 71 ) isfulfilled. The Committee’s close relationship with the prison authorities, however, puts it in a complicatedsituation due to the families’ suspicions that it withholds information. As an employee of the ICRC admitted,the neutrality of the organisation is indeed a double bind in that what it does will never be good enough forthe families. The Committee’s neutrality nonetheless obliges it not to account for the pressure it puts on thestate of Israel to uphold its obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the fourth Genevaconvention (ICRC 1949 72 ).But the families communicate transfers of detainees among themselves. Aisha’s husband wrote thisto her after he was sentenced:My love Imm Ahmad,I have the feeling that the way we visit each other will change, or that this is going to be the last, andI can’t hide that this will be really difficult for me. I used to talk to you without barriers, I got usedto your visits without you actually visiting me because your letters made me feel happy, and I wasfeeling that you visit me when I got a letter from you.How will I feel when I move far into the desert and will have no connections with you? It is going to be ablack desert, and how can I feel my heart beats when I do not read your words?Aisha told me that although the Israelis had informed neither the International Committee of the Red Crossnor the family that her husband had been transferred to another prison, her husband had a hunch that thiswould and told her by letter. He wrote that the visits would change, he wrote about isolation and a black deser,clear allusions to the prison of An-Nafha situated in the Negev. This is a prison for those high securitydetainees whom the Israeli authorities often move because they are suspected of creating strong communitiesaround them in the prisons, as Nashif has convincingly confirmed in his analysis (Nashif 2008). Aisha’shusband is one such person, imprisoned for planning a significant event during al-Intifāa al-Aqsa.Knowledge about where he is and when he will be there is therefore restricted. Aisha must keep herselfthoroughly updated and always be ready to change her applications for permissions to visit him in anotherprison.71Cf. this link for an example of Israel violating this right:http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/gaza-news-10060972 Cf. the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva, pp. 153-221.124


The cases of Amina, Fatemeh and Aisha show how the temporalities of the detainees’ wives, theirnow and their orientation to the future, are structured by Israeli securitisation procedures and thecorresponding practices the women have to engage in, whether in conversation with the family or withstrangers; in the fact that next month one must go back and forth to the local International Committee of theRed Cross office in order to check whether permission has been granted; or in borrowing the neighbour’s slowinternet connection to see if new lists have appeared showing who has been released in this round ofnegotiations between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority. The sum and multitude of these practicesare what makes up the temporal backbone of an everyday to the detainees’ wives, tying it inextricably to thepresent. How this influences notions of future and time is my concern below, where Yasmin, an interlocutor,comments on the time ahead.V.V Disappearing Futures through Uncanny PresentsI do not think about the future. Maybe one, at the most two days ahead. That is all I can think of.Yasmin’s husband is serving a life sentence. He belongs to a political faction that does not fall under theheading of ‘moderate’, and he has been convicted of activities that place him in the category of ‘high securitydetainee’. For these reasons, Yasmin has not been allowed to visit him during the four years of hisimprisonment. She is thirty-one, was married at fourteen and lives with her six children in the top flat of hermother-in-law’s mansion in one of Ba’b as-Shams’ posh districts. There is little chance that she will be able tovisit her husband. However, in order to bring about even a slight feeling of still forming part of a conjugalrelationship, she has to keep applying for a permit, despite the fact that she knows it is in vain.I take Yasmin’s words as an invitation to explore theoretically what I have termed the derivativeconsequences of Israeli securitisation procedures regarding Palestinian detainees and how these consequencesare not encompassed in the standing language available to know suffering in the occupied territories. Thereason of this failure of encompassment concerns temporality. The standing language assumes the notion of anaftermath where the absence of an incarcerated husband slides into the ordinary and allows his relatives tomove on. The idea of an aftermath is closely entwined with the criteria of immediacy and of an event bringingabout traumatisation, as described in Chapter III. There is thus a particular temporality intrinsic to theconceptualisation of suffering as an event with an attendant aftermath.As discussed in Chapter III, the notion of an aftermath rests on the idea of a long duration fromwhich the husband in question is absent. I have here tried to show how we can conceive of this duration byway of Bergson’s term ‘the virtual’ (cf. Deleuze, 1988: 43). The virtual realm is that of duration, whichcontains all potential lines of differentiation that may or may not be actualised and enter the realm of theactual, the empirical world of matter (Bergson 1912). By analysing the practices that the wives of theincarcerated must engage in so as to stay in touch with their husbands, it appears that the enduring absencedoes not slide into the background. Rather, absence is continuously actualised, as every one of the practicesthat the women engage in reaffirms the disappearance of their male relatives. Whether it is the narration ofhow to make sure the Israeli prison guards do not confiscate the new pair of shoes one has sent to one’s125


husband, or feeling certain that the fellow wife of a detainee will look out of for one’s children on the bus tothe prison, such practices actualise the fact that a husband has been imprisoned. And, as shown in the analysisof the question ‘kīf al-asīr’, the narration about a detainee demonstrates that his family, wife and children arethe relatives of a detainee rather than something else. I termed these instances of aspect blindness. Vitally, ifalmost trivially, these practices also take time to perform. They fill the relatives’ time, particularly that of thedetainees’ wives, because it is they who are classified as the ‘primary relations’ of the incarcerated by theInternational Committee of the Red Cross Family Visits Office in Jerusalem.In trying to understand the relationship between incarcerated husbands and their wives, Strathern’spremise that people are not only related but also made up through their relations with each other is fertile(Strathern 2004). For Strathern, a relation is not only an actual connection, it is just as much a connectionthat has been cut (Pedersen and Holbraad 2009). For instance, a person may be dead, but his family is stillrelated to him. Thus a relation remains, even though the actual connection has been cut. To Strathern thesignificance lies in what is elicited, or to use Bergson’s notion, what is actualised, in the cut. In Strathern’srelational universe, every cut elicits a new relation (Strathern 2004: 81). On the basis of the analysis of thischapter, I therefore propose that the cut between a detainee and his wife elicits the incarcerated aspect of theconjugal relation for the detainee’s wife. Against this backdrop, one might say that Israeli securitisationprocedures figure as something that cuts connections, but not relations, between the detainees and their wives.Meanwhile, eliciting only a particular fractal – a relationship to a detainee – of a woman’s identity hasactualised an instance of aspect blindness in which all the other aspects her person contains are eclipsed.In the present chapter, I have only briefly examined the implications of cut relations and aspectblindness for the captive conjugate. An issue that will be revisited in Chapter VII is how incarceration altersthe relationship between the body and the soul of the detainee with significant implications for how the manand the wife can know each other. I have tentatively suggested that this altered condition of knowing the othermay entail skepticism entering the conjugal relationship. This is the point to which I return in Chapter VII.What the present chapter has conveyed is that the everyday temporality of the detainees’ wives isstructured around attempts to stitch together the cut connections of the conjugate by maintaining therelationship. The key in trying to stitch cut connections together is to repeat the practices of applying forpermits to visit, arranging bus trips and finding a better lawyer when the final sentence has been handed down.Through the wives’ repetition of practices that attempt to stitch connections together, the double bind of cutsand relationships actualise a contraction of their lived time, in which future horizons are suspended. Thecontraction of time emerges because the practices needed to stitch together a connection with a husband arerepeated in the very the instant they are completed. In this light, such practices can never be completed.Moreover, the detainees’ sentences are simultaneously temporary and endless due to ‘the detainees’ question’between Israel and the Palestinians being intrinsically unsettled. This makes the women captives of theimmediate present. Consequently, the lived time does not pass but figures as a crude instantiation of Deleuze’sfirst paradox, namely that the present must pass at the same time as it is present, which he terms ‘the paradoxof contemporaneity’. 73 In Deleuze’s understanding, the past is therefore only past by being part of the presentthat is passing (Deleuze 1994; cf. Hodges 2008).73‘The contemporaneity of the past with the present it was’ (1994: 81).126


Being a captive of the present also occurs because the practices that the wife of a detainee mustengage in require her absolute attention. This is so not only the first time around, but at every attempt tomaintain the conjugal relationship, because the necessary practices are never the same. The procedures change,if only slightly, at every repetition. This happens when parts of the bureaucratic process change, for instance,when the place or deadline for handing in a request for permission changes, even though the formula is thesame. Or, when suddenly a detainee’s son can no longer visit because he has become fifteen and has had theresponsibility for seeing his younger siblings through the visits or making sure that letters were passed betweenhis mother and his detained father. Because of such expected variations, the anticipation 74 created by a comingvisit, a plea for permission or a date from one’s lawyers absorbs the orientation of the subjects engaged in suchpractices. This keeps the wives focused on the conditions created by Israeli securitisation measures, theimmediate present. In Yasmin’ words, there is no future: she is caught up in the present. As she later stated, ‘IfI think about the future, I’m lost’.For the wives, the notion of an actual future is itself an aspect of time that remains virtual. Thefuture cannot even be anticipated, but is contained as a potential in duration. However, thoughts and hopeswithin it are never actualised due to the wives being contracted in an absorbing present. Because the detainees’wives never know when or where a prison visit will actually take place, from where the bus will depart, orwhether they will be granted permission again, they are repetitively oriented towards the practices in and oftheir present. Through this repetitive cycle, their futures never replace the present, and the present neverbecome past. The incarceration of the women’s husbands actualises the contraction of their lives to thepresent, thus keeping their futures within the realm of the virtual. The effects of this might be thought of asshort-sighted subjects, whose worlds end and begin with the next permission or the next visit. In a sense allthat is left is the present, added, perhaps, to a distant future of the state of Palestine, which in sh’allah willcome true.IV.VI ConclusionThis investigation of the derivative effects of the Israeli securitisation procedure of incarcerating Palestinianshave shed light on how this procedure structures the everyday temporality of the detainees’ wives. Adhering toa psychological notion of aftermath, a husband’s imprisonment would be perceived to be one long continuitythat slowly allows for the everyday to come together after violence and thus offers a potential for recovery, ifnot for the detainee himself, then for his relatives. In contrast to this, I have documented how the Israelisecuritisation procedures that wives of detainees must comply with create an uncanny and in a sense timelessordinary for them. This is entailed in the repetitive structure of the securitisation procedures, a repetition thatis always both similar to and different from its precursor. The structuring attributes of Israeli securitisation arebrought about because the practices the women have to engage in in order to stitch together connections withtheir husbands are time- and attention-consuming and continue to be so. Whereas repetition may connoteroutine and triviality that decrease the tension and uncertainty involved in such practices, I have shown thatthis is far from being the case for my interlocutors. The derivative securitisation practices are repeated, butalways with an inbuilt difference that makes the practices at the same time familiar and unfamiliar. One74Anticipation is used by Hastrup as the capacity to project a future trajectory of life (Frida Hastrup 2009: 212).127


consequence of this interstice of knowing and not knowing is that the detainee’s absence, his incarceration andthe violence preceding it never transform the present into the past. The simultaneity of past and presentcontracts the women’s temporality into an inescapable now.As I have demonstrated, the detainees’ wives cannot actualise a future, but remain oriented to thedemands of the present. Whereas these demands may seem exterior to the women, they are at the heart oftheir personal affect because the practices are what allow them to stay in touch with their husbands.Resonating with the drawing discussed in the introduction, moreover, these practices allow the detainees’wives to play their part in the struggle against Israel. In a sense the cut of the connection to their husbandsallows them to form a relationship with the Palestinian collective in which they figure as the loyal supportersof their heroic men. How personal affect both resonates with and opposes a Palestinian discourse ofsupporting the incarcerated figures through how umūd (steadfastness) is vital for any Palestinian. Giving into despair and hopelessness amounts to accepting the actuality of the Israeli state, an acceptance that is locallytermed ‘normalisation’. The contraction of the lived time of the detainees’ wives thus means that the futuredisappears, and with it hope. As such, the very practices that elicit the women to be the supportive wives ofnational heroes fighting for the future of Palestine contracts their own personal lives, never allowing them toescape the present. Their entire lives are contracted in those moments, actualising the detainee’s absence only,rather than other aspects of the women’s subjective duration.Following Bergson, every new differentiation actualises a line. I suggest that in each contraction oftime is a simultaneous dilation, if we understand dilation to be the expansion of matter (Deleuze 1988: 75).This is what I understand to emerge from Aisha’s words with which I opened the chapter. The words in herdiary tell us that she allows the moment to take over her entire time, this in fact being what allows herhappiness, hope and feeling together with her husband. Simultaneously, the contraction of time due to thepractices in which she and other women must engage in order to stay in touch is in a sense a refuge from afuture they are obliged to believe in, yet whose bleakness they must also live with. As such, the women’s livesshift between not knowing what it takes for them to stay in touch on the one hand, and on the other handknowing that it takes staying in the contracted moment to face not knowing. What is actualised is a lived timethat is uncanny, familiar, though not quite so.Building on the preceding chapter, I have shown what the everyday means to detainees’ wives.Following Cavell’s reading of Freud (1988), we find here that the uncanniness of the everyday is underlinedthrough the domestication not only of a collective politics of memory in the heart of the families, but alsothrough the detainees’ wives’ engagement in well-known practices, ones that are necessary and carry an air ofbeing homely (Freud, 1919(2003): 133). Visiting, narrating, being oriented toward a lawyer’s appointment areactivities that stitch together family connections that have been cut by the overall Israeli securitisationprocedure of incarcerating Palestinian men. Coming full circle back to Cavell, we can think about thissubstitution as ‘a difference so perfect that there is no way or feature in which the difference consists’ (Cavell1988: 166). I suggest that we think of these differences as actualising a lived time for the detainees’ families asuncanny – a repetition, but with a variation that induces uncertainty and a lack of progression of time.The portrait in this chapter of an everyday is what the standing language of knowing suffering inPalestine cannot read and therefore fails to acknowledge. Yet this is what constitutes aftermath and the128


ordinary for the detainees’ families. Uncanniness is ordinary. It is ādi.129


Part 3:Affected Relationships130


Chapter VI‘Hard things make people closer, I guess’Contracted Closeness and Actualised ObligationsWhy do you focus on all the bad things? On the contamination of our traditional, Palestiniansociety by the occupation and by the international community? Why do you not write about traditional lifeand our heritage in the villages, about the strength of the families, their resilience and resistance to theoccupation?These words belong to a friend of mine, a Palestinian scholar who kindly made a critical reading of my projectdescription at the onset of my fieldwork in July 2007. The working title, ‘Residual Suffering: Female Lives in aWorld of Male Violence: An Anthropological Investigation of the Gendered - and Gendering of - Violence inthe Occupied Palestinian Territory’, is admittedly a crude perspective on the embroilment of the Israelioccupation with gendered Palestinian lives. Acknowledging his critique, a question still worth pondering ishow the ‘strength of the families’ and ‘resistance to the occupation’ are moulded by enduring incarceration andits attendant non-linear absence of a husband. How does the gendered compliance of resistance and supportpictured in al-Ali’s drawing on the first page become part of intimate relations? This chapter interrogates the‘strength of the family’, asking how detention configures the affinal and to a lesser extent the consanguinealrelationships of thesurrounding wives of detainees. This complements the earlier examination of the contextof suffering, the domestic realm and temporality as entry points to studying alterations in the ordinary ofdetainees’ wives during their husbands’ detention. With this and the two ensuing chapters, therefore, I amshifting my focus from realms to relations. The argument pursued is that the absence of an incarceratedhusband actualises a contraction of the wife’s affinal relationships surrounding her. This contraction actualisesaccentuation of three aspects that are intrinsic to a Palestinian understanding of kinship:: imāya(protection), akkam (control) and mas’uliyya (responsibility).The subject of analysis here is thus the reverberations of a husband’s absence from the set ofrelationships that make up al- ā’ila (the family). Al- ā’ila refers to the extended family (Gren 2009: 145),within which I emphasise those relationships that my interlocutors believe form part of ad-dār (the house)(Gren 2009: 144). These relationships include the family-in-law and the natal family of the wives of thedetainees. I document how male absence due to incarceration actualises an accentuation of aspects implied inPalestinian notions of kinship concerning the relationships of wives with their affinal and consanguinealfamilies. The relationships that are altered rather than accentuated during male absence are the conjugalrelationships between a detainee and his wife and between the incarcerated father, mother and children. Thesealtered relationships are the subject of analysis in the ensuing two chapters. My aim in this part of the thesis isthus to analyse the configuration of relationships that are actualised during incarceration. In line with theoverall concern of this study, I employ the interstice between ideal discourse and experience as an entry pointfor understanding how they intersect.To understand how incarceration generates the actualisation of particular aspects of Palestinian131


notions of kinship, it is useful to draw on Bergson’s phrase, ‘actualisation of virtual lines of differentiation’ (cf.Deleuze 1988: 43). As stated earlier, it is not the virtual that is actualised: the virtual is only generative of theprocess of actualisation (Deleuze 1988: 43). A line that permeates my ethnography is obligation toward kin.What are actualised are imāya (protection), akkam (control) and mas’uliyya (responsibility). I suggest thatthe actualisation of these aspects of obligation occurs through the contraction and dilation of the relations thatmake up the domestic sphere of the detainees’ wives at the onset of their husbands’ imprisonment. In ChapterV, Bergson’s terms ‘contraction’ and ‘dilation’ figured as theoretical concepts (cf. Deleuze 1988: 74). Here Ialso employ them descriptively in order to convey ethnographically the relational configuration surroundingdetainees’ wives during their incarcerated husbands’ absences from the domestic realm of ad-dār.The actualised aspects of imāya (protection), akkam (control) and mas’uliyya (responsibility) areemic terms figuring in my ethnographic material. These are analysed in the light of Bergson’s concept of ‘thewhole of obligations’ 75 (Deleuze 1988: 108). According to the anthropologists Morgan Clarke (2007) andDale Eickelman (1977), obligation is immanent in Palestinian notions of kinship. ‘The whole of obligations’can thus be used to convey the fundamental nature of obligations. About this essential nature of obligations,Bergson notes that ‘the only thing that is grounded is the obligation to have obligation’ (cf. Deleuze 1988:108), thereby acknowledging the embeddedness of obligations in social life.In the Middle East, obligations are implied in qarabah (closeness), which in Eickelman’s words ‘is aform of relationship which is said to exist between persons bound together by multiple personal obligationsand common interests and who regularly can be expected to act on each others behalf ’ (Eickelman 1977: 11).Intrinsic to the notion of qarabah (closeness) is therefore the whole of obligations regarding those to whomyou are close (Clarke 2007: 380). Paraphrasing Clarke, qarabah (closeness) covers different subcategories ofkinship and affinity such as ‘nasab (consanguinity), mu āhara (affinity) and ri ā (milk kinship). 76 It is thisembeddedness of obligations that I unfold by describing obligation as simultaneously virtual and actualthrough its actualisation as protection, control and responsibility in relationships surrounding an absent,detained husband. Al- ā’ila (the family) is a set of relationships within the category of qarabah. Being made upby both affinal and consanguineal kin, it thus allows a glimpse of qarabah in and around the domestic realm ofad-dār .Intrinsic to the Palestinian whole of obligations are the notions of honour and shame. Noanthropologist has treated the topic of honour and shame in the Middle East more comprehensively thanAbu-Lughod in her landmark study of the Awlad ‘Ali Bedouins of Egypt (Abu-Lughod 1999 [1986]). I leanon her conceptualisation of these terms and how they are immanent in the system of morality that perpetuatesPalestinian notions of kinship (Abu-Lughod 1999 [1986]: 85). At the heart of the notions of honour andshame are the ways in which they are built into patriarchy as factors that motivate behaviour. Whereas these75Bergson states about obligations: ‘It has no rational ground. Each particular obligation is conventional and canborder on the absurd: the only thing that is grounded is the obligation to have obligations, “the whole of obligations”: andit is not grounded in reason, but in a requirement of nature, in a kind of “virtual instinct”, that is, on a counterpart thatnature produces in the reasonable being in order to compensate for the partiality of his intelligence’ (cf. Deleuze 1988: 108).76Milk kinship refers to the practice of, for instance, allowing the child to be breastfed by its mother’s sister. In thatsituation, marriage is considered haram (forbidden) (Clarke 2007: 288).132


notions configure social relations, I adhere to Baxter’s precaution that ‘ideological-culturally-basedexplanatory models of behaviour favour coherency over ambivalence and untidiness’ (Baxter 2007: 737).What such a model moreover does, as Abu-Lughod argues (2002), is gloss over the political conditions underwhich interlocutors act. Since my analysis is about the wives of men who are perceived as being at the heart ofthe Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I study the configuration of their kin relations against the backdrop of theaffective politics surrounding the detainees and Palestinian notions of kinship.My analysis of kin relations during incarceration as they are both configured and lived necessitatesan account of how ‘the Palestinian family’ and patriarchy are enunciated in the standing language, which, asalready documented, rests on both a Palestinian meta-narrative and global psychological discourse. Iintroduce how the family is articulated in each of these constituents of the standing language as the first partof the ethnography in this chapter. I then point to the contraction and dilation of the detainees’ wives’ livingarrangements with the onset of their husband’s detention. Following this I discuss how contraction anddilation actualise the aspects of protection, control and responsibility during a detained husband’s absencefrom ad-dār. In conclusion, the actualisation of protection, control and responsibility will be analysedaccording to the whole of obligations.VI.I The Palestinian Family as a StrongholdIn the occupied territory, al- ā’ila (the family) is represented in the standing language and in its constituent,the Palestinian meta-narrative, as a stronghold against the occupation. Resonating with Moghadam’s critiqueof the notion of the Arab family as a safe haven (Moghadam 2004), Taraki describes how the family is alwaysrepresented through its seemingly unlimited elasticity in terms of receiving and coping with the array ofviolent events that has become a mundane part of everyday life in the occupied territory (Taraki 2006: xii).The family is articulated as that which remains unchanged throughout turmoil, and not least that whichprovides the resistance movements with the support to keep working against the occupation. The reciprocalrelationship of support and pride between the heroes and their families is in a sense articulated as the socialcontract of the occupied territory (Massad 1995).This relationship is pictured in Naji al-Ali’s drawing of a wife handing her husband a gun in thename of Palestine. I commented earlier on the ordinariness in the woman’s gesture in handing the gun to herhusband: the ordinariness connotes the truism of this very act. The fact that it is depicted by one of thePalestinians’ most cherished cartoonists is a further hint to us of the simultaneously mundane and tragic air ofthe gesture. Al-Ali is known for his satirical cartoons commenting on Arab regimes and the Israeli-Palestinianconflict in particular (The Political Cartoon Gallery 2008: 4). Whereas the drawing comments on gender andviolence in that conflict, the satire of the drawing eludes me. In my understanding, 77 the cartoon fails to entera satirical register. In his essay on Palestinian Intifāa humour, Kanaana writes that this specific humour islikely to be appreciated by Palestinians only (Kanaana 2005 (1990): 17). Nonetheless I consider my failure tosee the satire in Al-Ali’s drawing as residing elsewhere. Kanaana writes that characteristic of the jokes andmyths he has collected about al-Intifāa are that they depict a reality that co-exists with the actual reality and77Pondering my own reaction of cringing rather than amusement, my colleagues Dr Mark Vacher and Dr HenrikRønsbo have readily shared their interpretation of the drawing with me.133


that the relationship between them is one of antagonism (Kanaana 2005 (1990): 20). However, Al-Ali’sdrawing depicts a reality that is actualised for every single one of my interlocutors, a reality that is described byMassad (1995): the obligation of women to support the resistance fighters and secure reproduction. In thedrawing, the actual and the depicted realities are not the same, but they nonetheless resonate, to the point thatthey converge. This implies that the drawing is not satirical. Rather, as it is manufactured by a man, it may beinterpreted as an even stronger call to show support for the male fighters because the women are the oneshanding them the potentially wounding gun. Al-Ali’s drawing therefore depicts the complicity of both menand women in the struggle for freedom from occupation, connoting the place of the Palestinian family at theheart of national politics. Because the woman in the picture is carrying a child on her shoulder, it can be saidthat the Palestinian family eclipses the conjugal bond and the effects of violence on both the family and theconjugate. It is the content of this eclipse that is examined in this part of the thesis, reverberating in whatfollows too.The poignant status of al- ā’ila (the family) is reflected in the interest of Palestinian academia too.Al- ā’ila is thus addressed at seminars and conferences. At the time of writing, the latest of the conferencesconcerning this topic was ‘The role and future of the Palestinian family’ (Appendix 2). The society hosting theseminar was Jam’iyat In’ash al-Usra (The Society for Family Rejuvenation and the Center for the Study ofPalestinian Society and Heritage’), a most significant social institution in the West Bank, being both a welfareorganisation for poor families – in particular female-headed households – and a national centre forPalestinian folklore and heritage, with a large folklore library and an exhibition hall. As the current director ofthe Society emphasised to me during a conversation, it is an institution that is one of the few organisations inthe occupied territory that neither receives nor applies for funds from European donors. Instead the Society issupported through private Palestinian donations and funding from elsewhere in the Arab world. Thus,concerned about Palestinian social relations, and bearing the brunt of poverty, martyrdom, incarceration anddivorce, the Society practically witnesses and acts upon the cracks in Palestinian society and in Palestinianfamilies too. Influencing the Palestinian meta-narrative, Jam’iyat In’ash al-Usra gives voice to the cracks inPalestinian families as an effect of al-Ihtilal (the occupation).The call for papers for the conference opens with a reference to the Palestinian family as a ‘viable,surviving social institution’. It is due to a concern and need for a critical evaluation of the nature of thePalestinian family and the role it has played in their struggle for survival’ that the call has been made. Thethemes to be discussed are ‘traditional family structure’, ‘points of strength and positive roles’, ‘weakness andnegative roles’, and ‘attempts at weakening or destroying the family structure’.Categorising this call for papers as ethnographic data implies deconstructing and contextualising itswording. What is required in the call is research that addresses the role and relationship of the Palestinianfamily with respect to the Palestinian nation, the Israeli occupation and the international world in the shape ofNGOs or host countries of Palestinian refugees. The focus is thus the Palestinian family as a unit in relation toan external social world. Missing from the call for papers is how the Palestinian family might be affectedinternally, for instance, different positions among the subjects of the family and their possibly divergingapproaches to a social world that is external to them. The absence of this topic from the call for proposals byno means reflects the lack of interest in it by its initiator. The facilitator of the conference, Professor Kanaana,134


is a respected Professor of Folklore at the University of Birzeit and has written extensively about the differentand conflicting positions intrinsic to the Palestinian family (Kanaana and Muhawi 1989: 15).The conference call’s lack of acknowledgement of Palestinian families as affected in their texture bythe occupation reflects the Palestinian meta-narrative, which evidently forms part of national academic effortstoo. According to this discourse, the poignancy of the Palestinian family as a stronghold against theoccupation makes any rift within the family an issue that is nationally painful. When I explained my study toone interlocutor, she said that she considered it most important for it to be carried out. But there was no waythat she or any Palestinian would carry it out themselves, as it was too painful. With these words sheacknowledged the futility of romanticising the conflict, the dire effects of which slowly but persistently seepinto even the stronghold that is the Palestinian family. Her latter words, that no Palestinian would take up astudy that intricate, underline the absence of this topic from the call for proposals. Whether her speech was apolite way of making me aware that neither Palestinians nor I should probe more deeply into the matter Icannot know. I have no reason to believe that she was insincere judging from her own efforts to call attentionto the circumstances of detainees’ families, including her own. In anthropologist Maya Rosenfeld’slongitudinal study of Palestinian families during al-Intifā a al-awwal (the first Intifada), interlocutors advisedher against studying relations between detainees and their wives, precisely due to its sensitivity (Rosenfeld2004: 282). She therefore researched only one family in which both the man and the woman had beenincarcerated.Reflecting on the concerns of the first part of the thesis, we may understand the gap between a callfor proposals on the status of the family in contemporary Palestine and the absence from the call of problemsinternal to families as a failure of the standing language to acknowledge precisely these problems. Thisinadequacy of the standing language must be seen in the light of Palestinian understandings of kinship, inwhich what goes on in families is kept within the family as protection against shameful gossip (Kanaana andMuhawi 1989: 15). Following Das, we might call that which is contained as ‘poisonous knowledge’ (Das2007: 54). Among the informants who formed part of Das’ study of the tentacles of the event of the partitionbetween India and Pakistan in 1947 (Das 2007: 1), there were women who had been abducted, but, ‘Ratherthan bearing witness to the disorder they had been subjected to, the metaphor that they used was of a womandrinking the poison and keeping it within her’ (2007: 54). The metaphor of drinking poisonous knowledgeconveys the withholding of knowledge within a single human being in an effort to protect the fabric of whatwas left of social relations after the partition.Allowing the notion of poisonous knowledge to resonate across regions, across different conflictsand from the individual to the collective, we can think of Palestinian families’ containment of tacit knowledgeregarding the implications of being married to a detainee in a similar manner: To withhold knowledge thatwould compromise the family and its members if it were verbalised becomes a twin act of protecting the wivesof the detainees and trying to stitch together the relational cracks engendered by the Israeli-Palestinianconflict. It therefore appears that Palestinian families are a sensitive topic of enquiry due to their symbolic andactual position in the effort to uphold the struggle against defeat. Palestinian families must show umūd((steadfastness) (cf. Sayigh 1993) in order to bounce off defeat against a wall of necessary pride in its collectiveprojection of itself.135


VI.II Interlude: Honour and Uncanny Affect‘I am not proud of him; honour is between us because we are related’, Layla said about her maternal cousinMahmood’s involvement in activities of resistance against Israel. These activities saw him, Layla’s sister’shusband, and Aisha’s husband detained with sentences ranging from seventeen years to life. As the maternalcousin of one of the men behind the activities, Layla’s words summarises the meaning of honour in relationsthat are intrinsic to closeness in the Levant (Abu-Lughod 1986 (2000); Clarke 2007; Eickelman 1977).Conversely, Layla explained that these activities entailed more than pride for her family:When we heard about the operation, it was at the time of the olive season. My family had comeback from a tiring day collecting olives on our lands. Reema [Layla’s sister] and I were inside thehouse and we were watching TV, when they announced the operation in the news […]: Weimmediately said, this is Mahmood. None of us knew that Mahmood and Yussuf were politicallyactive, and we didn’t expect anything like that, but upon hearing the news, we felt that it wasMahmood. I don’t know how we felt that – after a while they announced the group. Uponlearning [what the activity entailed], honestly I felt happy, but at the same time I was sad because Iknew that my relatives would have a bad destiny after this, such as imprisonment or they[the Israelis] would kill them. But for Palestinians and for all Arabs, my relatives did a great thing,and I am proud of them.Layla’s account indicates the configuration of affect that violence actualises in the families of detainees:simultaneously with being honoured in the name of the Palestinian nation, this configuration of affect entailsfeelings of loss, longing, anger and resignation. The configuration of affect and relationships in an everyday,where the reverberations of incarceration are pervasive, was mentioned in the first part of the thesis as aneveryday perpetuated by uncanniness. Lingering in Layla’s enunciation of honour is a sense that nothing willbe the same again. In this sense, Layla’s account documents the dual effects of her cousin’s activities ofresistance, namely national honour accompanied by an uncanny anticipation of ‘a bad destiny’ for her kin.Layla’s words specify how the Palestinian family and both national and personal affect are implied by oneanother. Against this background, I describe how family and affect are configured according to patriarchy inthe occupied territory.VI.III Actualising Patriarchy in ClosenessKinship in the occupied territory is contemporary as well as historically structured in accordance withpatriarchy ( Johnson 2006). I consider patriarchy in the occupied territory to belong to Bergson’s ‘ideal butnot abstract’ realm of the virtual (Deleuze 1990: 264). Patriarchy is thus a potential that can be actualised. Thefollowing explains aspects of patriarchy that are relevant in order to comprehend how notions of kinship areactualised for my interlocutors in the absence of their detained husbands. I discuss which analyticalunderstandings of Palestinian kinship are fertile in comprehending how the actualisation of patriarchy unfoldswith regard to my data.136


In Kanaana and Muhawi’s words, the Palestinian family ‘is extended, patrilineal, polygynous,endogamous and patrilocal’ (Kanaana and Muhawi 1989: 13). Social relations are organised in accordancewith these principles. For instance, the proper name of Dar Nūra testifies to the patrilineal structure ofPalestinian society. The name of the village reflects the fact that it was built by its most prominent kin group.Among Dar Nūra’s inhabitants, the majority are of this descent, if not consanguineously, then through affinalrelations. Thus marriages that would be considered exogamous fold back into the same agnatic line, likeelsewhere in smaller communities across the Levant ( Joseph 1999: 176). As the sociologist Penny Johnsonnotes, endogamous marriage practices were relatively stable in the occupied territory in the last part of the20 th century. Patrilateral parallel cousin marriages are the most stable, and even an increasing category ofmarriage, whereas marriages between distant kin are declining ( Johnson 2006: 65). According to Johnson,consanguinity continues to be significant in Palestinian marriage practices due to the Israeli-Palestinianconflict and the pressure it places on families to stay close (2006: 70).As Kanaana and Muhawi write, it has been common for three generations to live in physicalproximity of each other in the extended family, often in the same building, with different units holding theconjugal family units of al- ā’ila. This is still widely practised in both villages and urban centres, albeit less so.Distance and proximity between extended kin households are organised through patrilocality (Kanaana andMuhawi 1989: 14). Therefore, when a woman marries, she moves into the household of her husband’s father.This has nothing to do with closeness itself, of course, nor with marriage to consanguines, but is part of thedefinition of patrilocality everywhere. In this manner, extended families stay physically close, therebyaffirming the qarabah (closeness) intrinsic in endogamously structured kin relations. Although negativelyarticulated by my interlocutors, eleven out of the twelve women are married to their patrilateral parallel cousinor ibn ammi (father’s brother’s son). Similarly, in 2007 Amina’s daughter was married to the son of herbrother. Palestinian notions of kinship, then, figure as social ideals of family relationality and as a guide in thechoice of potential spouses (Eickelman 2002 (1981): Chapter 7; Bourdieu 1977 (1995): 35).Kanaana and Muhawi also note that traditionally the Palestinian family is polygamous. Currently,this practice occurs mainly in villages or cities that Palestinians consider conservative. None of the women inthe families I studied shared their households with another wife, though in the family of Layla and Amina,two out of four brothers had two wives. According to Layla, in one case this had been brought about due to achronic illness suffered by her brother’s first wife, meaning that there was no one to manage the household.That polygamy and patrilateral parallel cousin marriage are actualised situationally becomes clear from the factthat Layla’s life can only be partially understood as adhering to these principles. She explained:I know you think it’s strange with a second wife, but as we talked about at the playground, it’s justas strange for us that you are not married to your boyfriend, you see.... I do not want to be thesecond wife. A man came and proposed to me but I could not, he was nice, but I could notimagine having to…having to be his wife, ouf. I said to my mother and to my brothers that I couldnot, I do not want it. They said to me, OK, halas, that’s OK, but we think you should do it.But I could not. Another man came to our house; his wife was in Jordan, but he was here in DarNoura with the children, and he could not get permission to go there, and she was not allowed back137


in. He needs another wife to take care of his children. I could not.Layla’s words convey the equivocal way in which patriarchy is simultaneously evoked and sidestepped out ofher family’s concern for her well-being, their comments and wishes aside. Bourdieu’s term ‘preferred marriage’can help us understand how Layla’s family would indeed prefer that she married according to Palestiniannotions of kinship (Bourdieu 1977 [1995]: 35). The word ‘preferred’ is key here, since in practice her family isallowing Layla to stay unmarried. Accordingly, Layla both understands and rationalises the practice ofpolygamy that she would do everything in her power to avoid. Layla does avoid it, but at the cost of remainingunmarried, which is socially awkward for a thirty-four-year old woman from a village.Although it is tacitly known, her sisters do not mention the fact that Layla was close to Mahmood,the son of her oldest sister Khuloud. They came of age together, were friends and talked together abouteverything. He was engaged to another woman before he was detained, but she broke it off upon learningabout his life sentence. According to the notion of endogamous patrilateral kinship, relatives on Layla’s father’sside are preferred as suitable spouses for her. This means that the ibn ammi (father’s brother’s son) isconsidered an ideal husband. However, since Mahmood is Layla’s sister’s son, he is out of the range of menwhom Layla could ever marry for different reason than the marriage preference: both have suckled fromLayla’s sister Khuloud, Mahmood’s mother, something that is still practiced in many Levantine families(Clarke 2007). According to Levantine notions of ri ā (milk kinship), this means that Layla and Mahmoodare ‘milk-siblings’, which renders them nasab (connoting a consanguine relation) and thus barred frommarrying 78 (Clarke 2007: 382).This small glimpse into Layla’s situation illustrates that the way Palestinian patriarchy is worked outin practice is not conceivable as a ‘cultural-ideological model of behaviour’. This supports Baxter’s observationthat such a model fails to consider how patriarchy is lived on an everyday basis. Patriarchy can, however, becomprehended as a social framework for inclusion and exclusion from the category of closeness (cf. Bourdieu1977 (1995): 37). As already stated, I perceive these structures of closeness as a ‘whole of obligations’ (cf.Deleuze 1988: 108) where subjects and relationships unfold, pointing out with whom and in which modes aperson or a household is obliged towards relatives.This whole of obligations has been conceptualised by Joseph as ‘patriarchal connectivity’ ( Joseph1999: 11). Rather than connoting a stable and traditional structure, patriarchal connectivity delineates howextended family relations are organised patriarchally (ibid.). Employing ‘patriarchal’ as a term, Josephunderlines the validity of patriarchy as a means of understanding the organisation of society in the MiddleEast. By ‘connectivity’, she refers to the differentiation of relationships within this structure. 79 In this sense,Joseph’s understanding of Arab kinship resembles Carsten’s influential term ‘relatedness’, which is employed ‘to78For a discussion of this, see Clarkes article ‘Closeness in the age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (2007).79As she states, ‘The concept of connectivity is useful in characterising the social production of relational selveswith diffuse boundaries who require continuous interaction with significant others for a sense ofcompletion’ (ibid.: 122)’. With regard to the family, ‘I employ connectivity in the context of a culture in which thefamily is valued over and above the person or society and in which “individuation”, autonomy, and boundedness asunderstood in the American psychotherapeutic literature are less valued than bonding with and commitment tofamily’ (ibid.).138


signal an openness to indigenous idioms of being related rather than a reliance on pre-given definitions orprevious versions’ (Carsten 2000: 4).However, since my concern is the actualisation of aspects of kinship notions in the absence of adetained husband, I suggest that, in conveying how relations are configured during male incarceration, thedescriptive term qarabah (closeness) is analytically more fruitful and closer to my ethnography than theconcept of patriarchal connectivity. Whereas qarabah denotes a tangibility of kin relations, the latter term’sinvocation of relationality through connections fails to capture how, in the case of my interlocutors,Palestinian notions of kinship are less virtual connections than lived relations. An analytic notion of qarabahenables me to explain the actualisation of patriarchy in the light of how the tentacles of violence (hereincarceration) permeate the configuration of my interlocutors’ kin relations – albeit not simply by makingthem closer – and endure encroachments.VI.IV Understanding Palestinian Families as TraumatisedAs I documented in Chapter III, in the light of violence the Palestinian family is also emphasised in the otherpart of the standing language, namely the global, psychological discourse, that which informs the psychosocialinterventions with the families of detainees in the occupied territory. Although the disciplines informing thisdiscourse have multiple theories, the overarching theoretical framework underlying psychosocial interventionstakes its point of departure in a notion of individuals who have been traumatised by violent events (cf. Thabetet al. 2009, Salo 2009, Thabet et al. 2008, Khamis 2008). In a dual gaze, the family members of the victim areseen as those who heal traumatisation and as those who are affected derivatively.As exemplified in the work of the Palestinian psychiatrist Thabet, the focus of attention is theprevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among parents and children. The family is thus imagined more asthe nuclear family than the notions of al- ā’ila and qarabah connote. Thabet’s general interest is in theindividual and how his or her trauma affects the other members of the family (cf. the references given above).Violence or malign events befalling the family are here understood to single out one member as the primaryvictim and the others as secondary or tertiary victims. Within this framework individuals take precedenceover the family as a unit, and the relationship with the social world surrounding the family is thus imaginedthrough the individuals composing it. This mode of understanding how families are affected by violence canbe seen as an instantiation of the criteria for knowing suffering that make up the standing language. Thus ininstantiating the standing language, the focus of Thabet’s work is the individual who has experienced animmediate, violent event. He is also concerned secondarily with those who are not directly afflicted but whoseexperience is imagined through the position of the indirect.Given that the different therapeutic disciplines have different theoretical positions, attempts tothink differently about the distribution of suffering occurs within, for instance, clinical psychology. To conveythis point, I refer to an article by a longstanding psychological expert on trauma in the occupied territory,Raija-Lena Punamaki, (Punamäki et al. 2006). A Palestinian lecturer at the Institute of Community andPublic Health, Birzeit University, dryly commented that it was Raija-Lena who brought trauma to Palestine.The lecturer referred to Punamäki’s ongoing, highly acclaimed engagement with researchers at the GazaCommunity Mental Health Program and the impact it has had on how suffering is generally understood in139


the occupied territory to this day. When I met Dr Punamäki during the annual meeting for the EuropeanSociety for Traumatic Stress in London 2008, she related how psychological and psychiatric research comingout of the occupied territory had become more psychiatric in tone than she had ever imagined. In one of herarticles, she and her co-authors argue that there is a system of balance among individual family members inhow suffering is distributed (2006). Punamäki et al. puts forward the view that if a man, for instance, issuffering from severe trauma and displays little resilience, his wife is likely to display hope, resilience andcoping strategies that involve the entire family. And, if both parents are affected negatively, the sum of negativeand positive attitudes is kept in equilibrium by their children. This analysis rests on how the family isperceived within that area of psychology that is inspired by systemic approaches, where the influence of theanthropologist Gregory Bateson is notable (Cf. Bateson 1979; 1972). This focus on the nuclear family unitand homeostasis in this conceptualisation of the violently affected Palestinian family resonates with thePalestinian notion of the family as the container and processor of the malign events that befall it.Employing Connolly’s term ‘resonance’ (Connolly 2005) to consider the resemblance betweenthese two understandings of the Palestinian family underlines that resonance does not mean sameness.Although relational, in Punamäki et al.’s perspective the family is seen as a unit made up of individuals, eachwith their own emotional responses to trauma, thus reflecting Joseph’s point that there seems to be a limit asto how relational the individual can be within the discipline of psychology ( Joseph 1999: 1). The point ofdeparture for the systemic approach is thus still the individual who stands in relation to his or her others.Juxtaposing the two modes of imagining the Palestinian family – a Palestinian notion of al- ā’ila asa unit of stronghold against Israel on the one hand, and the theoretical framework that lies behindinstitutionalised attempts to deal with the effects of incarceration on the other – serves the purpose ofpointing out the resonance, difference and convergence between the standing language’s two modes ofunderstanding the Palestinian family as both the proud supporter of a hero and secondary victims due to ahusband’s imprisonment.While both notions of the Palestinian family are valid and legitimate, they are not compatible withan anthropological analysis of the Palestinian family. The incommensurability of translation betweendisciplines rests on how anthropology has as its basic unit of analysis relations rather than the individuals ateither end of these relations.An influential attempt at conceptualising relations is the work of Strathern (2004). Strathern’spremise is that relations fluctuate according to the relations a person engage in (2004: 81). Analysing relationsthus implies attention to the changing configurations of visible and invisible relations that are present but outof sight when attending to a particular relation. Thus, even though my overall concern is the conjugal relation,it is necessary to attend to the wider set of relations that are implied in the conjugate.It is against this background that below I outline the configuration of kin relations and livingarrangements that occur for my interlocutors with the onset of their husbands’ detention. As already stated, Iemploy Bergson’s terms ‘contraction’ and ‘dilation’ to describe this configuration, albeit both different fromand with reference to his definition. In the two ensuing parts of the chapter, contraction and dilation figuredescriptively in order to unfold their theoretical meaning later.140


VI.VI Contraction: Enclosing Family HomesFor the majority of the women who took part in my study, the capture of their husbands meant only fewchanges in actual living arrangements, since at the time of the detentions they were already living in the houseof their families-in-law in accordance with the principle of patrilocality. Alternatively, after a period of livingin smaller conjugal households, the women would move back into the house of their families-in-law upontheir husbands’ incarceration. The absence of changes in actual living arrangements, however, iscounterweighted by the actualisation of aspects of Palestinian kinship that occurred with the captivity of theirhusband. This applies to Mervat, whose husband was building their new house some three hundred metresaway from his parent’s household in Dar Nūra. When her husband was caught by the Israeli army, Mervatbecame anxious and moved back in with her family-in-law, despite conflicts with her mother-in-law that werealready escalating . These conflicts were the reason Mervat and her husband had moved out of his family hometo build their own home amidst strong protests from her husband’s family. Mervat only stayed for a while withher mother-in-law’s household since she felt that she was being asked to undertake all the household chores,while her sisters-in-law were looking at her working without helping and without their mother asking them todo so. When Mervat’s own house was half-finished, she moved there with her six children. That she is notactually out of the realm of her mother-in-law shows in this comment from a conversation:I am a detainee’s wife, everything is illegal for me, I cannot go out, I have to stay at home. You know,if my mother-in-law sees me like that (she was wearing a trace of mascara that day) she willsay, for whom are you doing this? Once she came in the morning and found me sleeping andtold me: ‘Why are you wearing this?’ I told her ‘I am sleeping’. She told me that the neighbourscould see you like that.Like other women in her situation, Mervat was in a continuous conflict with her mother-in-law over thedetainee’s subsidy. Her mother-in-law felt that, as the mother of her incarcerated son, she was entitled to themoney since she did not have her oldest son to take care of her financially as he is obliged to do. To Mervatthis seemed outrageous and a threat to her efforts to make ends meet for herself and her children. Moneyproblems between wives and their families-in-law were a recurring concern in more than a few families Iencountered. They are not due to legislative ambiguity. According to the rules of the respective politicalorganisations that administer the allowances to their activists’ families, the official entitlement belongs to thewife due to her role as the primary carer of the detainee’s children. However, in many families the women donot have their own bank account, nor do they have the funds to open one. Therefore they rely on the familyin-lawto receive the money and pass it on to themselves. And since it is the children who are supposed to carefor the older generation as soon as they acquire an income, according to Palestinian notions of kinship,Mervat’s mother-in-law is entitled to financial support from Mervat. This also applies in the absence of her sonas a provider from Mervat’s household, because, with the detainee’s salary of NIS 1200 a month (USD 315),there is in fact an income from the son, which must be used to take care of his parents. Mervat is thereforeonly partially entitled to the money necessary to sustain her life, which makes her quarrels with her family-inlaweven more strenuous. Her financial ability to care for her children relies on the sympathy of her mother-in-141


law. For a meal including meat, the family will go to Mervat’s parents. Her situation was indeed coloured bycontinual bickering with her in-laws. Significantly, though, the situation was less a string of dramas than atritely discordant part of the ordinary enmeshed with tacit claims as to whom the imprisonment of Mervat’shusband had affected the most and whose suffering was therefore most worthy of compensation.Mervat would often say: ‘I am so bored, Lotte, I am glad you came, I have been waiting for you.Why were you so long time at Aisha’s house?’ Having almost finished her house, Mervat has nothing to doapart from cooking for the children and cleaning her house. Repeatedly she has said, ‘Just give me somethingto do, I would love a job where I could get out of the house, do something and not only exist for the children.I go crazy inside these walls.’ Guided by this lingering question throughout my fieldwork, and asking whetherwe could or should use the best of our knowledge to assist my interlocutor, Rawan and I decided to askRawan’s sister, who works as a counsellor in the YMCA in Ramallah, if they had a vocational programme towhich Mervat could be admitted on the basis of her status as the wife of a detainee. Participation in theprogramme would give Mervat an income from the profits of the sales of the handwork she would produce.When Rawan and I told her the news she said: ‘Oh, fine, thanks’, after which we talked about something else.Rawan’s sister called and arranged with Mervat that the latter would come to the project on a particular day.Rawan offered to walk with her so that nobody would gossip about where Mervat was going and what shewould be doing away from her house. Mervat did not turn up. She excused herself and said the day was notgood for her. She did the same when Rawan’s sister called next time. When we asked her why she had nottaken up the offer, she shrugged her shoulders and said, ‘Inshallah, I will someday’. Mervat repeated thesewords whenever I asked afterwards if she would be interested in taking up the standing offer of a place on theproject. Her boredom did not cease, and she did not stop needing the money. I can only guess why Mervat leftthe offer standing. One explanation is her awareness that she could easily become subject to rumours in thevillage if she was suddenly seen out and about during the day. As I described in Chapter IV, such rumoursproliferate about detainee’s wives and are always already there as a potential waiting to be actualised. But,Mervat’s example also connotes a permeable boundary between showing umūd (steadfastness) andresignation.Educated, strong-headed and ambitious, things also changed, albeit less conflictually, for Aisha,who had been living with her sister in Ramallah for two years while she was studying and her husband wasimprisoned. After a while, she accepted her husband’s advice that it would be better if she moved back to DarNūra to be closer to his family. She did move back, but lives in a flat with their two children away from bothher family’s and her family-in-law’s houses. After eight years, she is now in the process of building a home nextto the house of her family-in-law. The house is situated at an oblique angle so that its windows are visible fromthe courtyard of her husband’s family home a few metres away. Aisha spends many of her days and nights inthe house of her family-in-law and receives her guests there, if not in her office at work, thus circumventinglocal principles of conduct.According to such principles, if a man visits the premises of a single woman or a woman lacks a manin her immediate presence, this is considered a violation of the codes of honour and shame and an invitationfor others to question the woman’s honour and decency. The reason for this can be found in the notion ofqarabah (closeness), where the situation decides whether a man is either arīb (close) or ajnabi (stranger)142


(Clarke 2007: 383). Strangers are those who are eligible spouses, a category in which not only men from otherlines of descent but also men who are nasab (part of the agnatic line) are included. Living with an absenthusband makes any act by Aisha that involves male strangers a ground for questioning her morality. Due tohow honour and shame fold back into to the closeness of her relations with kin, the potential for suspicionalone makes her family and family-in-law deal with Aisha’s presence as an actual ‘single’ woman by, forinstance, offering her the facility to meet her acquaintances in their own home. The only legitimate mensurrounding a woman are her brothers and the children of her close kin. Brothers-in-law can thus be said toactualise the situational status of qarabah (closeness), since, at the same time as they are obliged to protect herin the absence of her husband, according to the norms of levirate marriage they are obliged to marry theirbrother’s widow in the case of their brother’s death. This is mostly practiced in the more conservative areas inthe West Bank, yet the structural ambiguity of the relationship between a wife and her brother-in-lawremains, as is revealed in the two cases of Fatemeh and Yasmin. When her husband was captured, newly-wedFatemeh was living with him and their three-month-old baby on top of her family-in-law’s house. They hadfinished building the new flat during their first year as a married couple after living in a room downstairs in herparent-in-laws’ house. When Fathemeh’s husband was imprisoned she stayed in the flat, alone with her son,just above her mother-in-law and next to her sister-in-law. In the absence of her husband, it was her brother-inlawwhom she had to ask to help her, and whom she would ask if it was alright if she left the house. Shedescribed to me how they became close and how some people would gossip that there she was with herbrother-in-law who is unmarried, illustrating the potential ambiguity of qarabah (closeness).The significance of the brother-in-law during the absence of a husband is an aspect of kinship thatalso perpetuates Yasmin’s life. She too lives on the top floor of her family-in-law’s house together with her sixchildren, a home her husband has yet to try living in. Together with Mayy I visited her four times, and eachtime it was either her brother-in-law who let us into her flat, even though he did not live on the premises, orelse he would turn up at some point during our visit, either by bringing biscuits, soft drinks or fruit, or bycalling her both on the landline and on Yasmin’s mobile. Financially privileged due to her family-in-law’ssignificant role in the city’s money-changing industry, Yasmin had a second house in Jericho where she wentwith her children during weekends and school holidays, always accompanied by her family-in-law.Common to Fatemeh, Yasmin and the other women living in ad-dār (house) of their families-inlawis the fact that they are staying in their own, separate flat with as-salon (guest room), a living room, akitchen and at least one bedroom, which they either share or the girls sleep there with their mothers and theboys stay in a separate room. Whereas for Aisha the site of habitation changed when her husband wascaptured, to the remaining women their actual living premises did not change. But although the house mightremain the same, I argue that their homes changed. Although less clearly, the accounts of the women’s livingarrangements show that life does change with the onset of their husbands’ detention. However, it did not alteras dramatically as one may think, given the sometimes violent circumstances under which the husbands hadbeen captured by the Israeli army. What happened for the women in the wake of their husbands’ captivity wasa contraction of the closeness surrounding them: they literally move closer to their families-in-law, are moreoften accompanied by a brother-in-law, and their whereabouts are monitored by their entire affinal kinnetwork more than before the capture. I think of this contraction as merely an accentuation of notions of143


kinship that are always already virtual but not necessarily actualised in the women’s lives. Below I analyse aninstance that appears differently from the contraction of closeness described above.VI.VII Dilation: A House, Not a HomeThe following comment is from a conversation with Amina, uttered after describing the demolition of hermother’s family house and the capture of her husband:Lotte: On the third day after the massacre, 80 what did you actually do? Did you sit down and didn’tdo anything or did you go out and looked around the house? What did you do with yourself ?Amina: In the first two weeks we were living in a tent. People, the press came to visit us, and wehave lots of pictures of us sitting on top of our destroyed house, and after those two weeks we livedin my brother’s house, but each day we were coming to the house to visit it.During the first weeks after the destruction of their house, Amina and her family lived in a tent watching andwaiting for a new house to be constructed from the rubble of the old family house. Shortly after thedemolition, Amina’s household, including her sister, her mother and her four daughters, moved into herbrother’s house, next to the house in which they had all been living. After a short while the family moved onto the house of Reema, Amina’s oldest sister but one. Amina’s situation of staying in her mother’s house beforeher own was destroyed is uncommon due to the principle of patrilocality. This is because her husband’s familylive in Amman, even though they are part of Amina’s agnatic line. Theirs is therefore a patrilateral parallelcousin marriage. Right after their marriage, when Amina was twenty, she moved with her husband to Ammanto live with her family-in-law, as is the norm. Even though Amina did not thrive in Amman, partly because,according to her, people are not ‘close’ there, the couple did not return to Dar Nūra until sixteen years later.Here they moved into Amina’s family house, which, according to Palestinian notions of kinship, would be thenext best place to live. With the destruction of the house due to her husband’s political activities, Amina in asense returned fully to the realm of her consanguineal family after having been away, into the responsibility ofher brother and elder sister, despite her marital relationship. Normally her absence from her consanguinealfamily would become permanent with the onset of her marriage, which on the day-to-day level removes bothher and her kin’s responsibility for her from her consanguineal to her affinal family. Although both familiesbelong to the same agnatic line, this is a matter of organising everyday chores in the households. Thus, whilethey were staying in her mother’s house, it was Amina’s husband who was responsible for the livelihoods of theentire household. Adhering to the whole of obligations implied by qarabah, Amina is also remaining closest toher consanguineal family despite her marriage (cf. Joseph 1999). She and her close relatives are reciprocallyobliged, as is instantiated in how Amina’s brother and sister opened their homes to them.After a year in her sister Reema’s household, Amina’s new house stood erect on the grounds wherethe destroyed house had been. The new house, provided by the organisation with which Amina’s incarcerated80The word used in the village to describe what happened when the Israel Defence Forces came to detain andpunish the families to the men who had been involved in an operation is ‘massacre’. In order to protect theanonymity of my interlocutors, I do not provide any figures for what the massacre implied.144


husband is involved, has never become a home to the family. The arrangement of the space in the house isculturally awkward, since the first room one enters is the family’s combined living, sleeping and kitchen area,the only place from which as-salon (the guest room) can be accessed. The living areas are therefore public,whereas normally Arab houses are built so that guests walk first into a hallway or straight into as-salon, thespace of hospitality, which, as the only truly public room in a home, is distinct and should be kept separatefrom intimate family life. The arrangement of the house thus crudely embodies Freud’s notion of the uncannyas what exists between being homely (heimlich) and un-homely (unheimlich). Supposed being homely yetwithout being homely is what renders it uncanny (Freud 1919 (2003): 148). While it has been furnished andmade liveable, the house seems still a temporary home that does not evoke care of or pride in the premises toeither Amina or her family. Even the front garden is strikingly barren, bearing in mind that the village inwhich they live is known to have rich, fatty soil and front gardens that are often lush with fruit trees. Only onmy return in 2008 were her frail mother’s careful efforts to grow trees beginning to bear leaves and maybe afew lemons, tangerines and pomegranates. There was a feel to the house as if it had never been lived in,although Amina has lived there with her mother, her children and her sister and another sister in the nextdoorflat for almost seven years now.Amina’s feeling of uncanniness in the house is actualised continually. On warm Septemberevenings, she is careful to shut all the windows before we go to sleep, explaining to me that she is afraid if theyare left open. Something might enter. The house has a feeling of being haunted, a haunting that in myunderstanding is brought about by absence: the absence of Amina’s husband, of homeliness and of the abilityto ensure safety. With the aid of her brothers and her nephews, Amina has meanwhile constructed a newhouse nearer to that of her oldest sister Khuloud. The ground floor has been finished for a while, but due toAmina’s responsibility towards her elder sister Reema, Reema’s daughter, her husband and baby girl have beenliving there until they can afford to build a house themselves. Amina moved into the house in July 2009. ToAmina, her husband’s imprisonment has in one sense allowed her more independence from both herconsanguineal and affinal families because she has been living without her husband and apart from her family.This independence is nonetheless fraught with obligations since Amina had been the main responsible personfor her mother until Amina moved and left the responsibility for her mother to Layla. This underlines howincarceration actualises lines of obligation, irrespective of what superficially appears to be a situation ofindependence.Independence is not something that Amina cherishes. One night, just around seven, after a daypicking olives in Amina’s fields, Layla, Amina, Khuloud, Khuloud’s neighbour, Rawan and I were sitting inKhuloud’s garden talking about the years since the massacre and how it had affected the family’s feeling ofcloseness. In the dim light of a single fluorescent lamp on the wall of the house, the women slowly gatheredround us after I had been talking alone with Khuloud for a while about being the mother of a life detaineeKhuloud is the mother of Mahmood.Lotte: Do you wish that it never happened?Amina: Yes. I don’t feel secure without my husband, and its difficult to handle this all alone, andthe house; it’s a big responsibility, now I am everything for the kids: their father, their mother and145


their friend.Lotte: Tomorrow is the commemoration of the massacre that happened in Dar Noura. If you thinkabout this family and that event, what are the links between them?Khuloud: Certainly we remember the massacre, and when they destroyed the house, and thesuffering that happened to us, and to the other people. All of this happened in one day, it’s difficult.Lotte: If I was to say anything I would think that your family was the hardest hit that dayKhuloud: Yes, my family was strongly hit that day.Lotte: What is the difference between the situations of other people and your situation? Imean the situation of the family that has lost the father or the son 81 , or when they are imprisoned,like your son and Amina’s husband?Amina: No one can forget this suffering.Khuloud: No one can forget this suffering, but I was saying that it was easier for us when wesaw that there are people who suffer more than us.Lotte: What does that mean, Amina?Amina: I don’t want to answer because I will start crying. I can’t handle speaking about themassacre.Lotte: I am sorry.Khuloud: We cannot forget that now, after they destroyed the house, we are separated all of us, eachone lives in a city. What hurts is not that they destroyed our house but it’s because that made us farfrom each other and that they changed. We are not living together anymore. I mean that, at thattime when they destroyed our house, my parents and my sister went to live in my sister’s house, meand my husband we were in Ramallah under house arrest, we couldn’t be in contact with myfamily, I was seeing them only seldom. What I am trying to say is if we were actually all together atthat time, we could be more helpful toward each other. I am sure we all were sad, and we wanted todo something but we could only do it in our hearts. Because of the distance we couldn’t actuallyhelp, and that was difficult.Lotte: What about today, do you think you still feel these changes in the family?Khuloud: Yes, sure, because we are not all together in the same house. I remember when we were alltogether we were very happy, and there were all the time noises because we were sitting together, allof us, but now we are not together.Lotte: Does that make the family less close?Khuloud: We are still close to each other and we feel with each other, but the problem is that we arenot living close to each other.Lotte: I was wondering whether if a distance in space can means a distance in emotions?Khuloud: No, I don’t think emotions can be affected.As Khuloud describes things, the family, from living literally in each other’s backyard, is now spread out. Some81The comparison was made because Khuloud’s neighbour was present, and she had lost a husband to a strike oflightning, which she was very eager to talk about that evening.146


live in Dar Nūra and others in Ramallah. This expansion of the family has meant that in practical terms theycannot help out when it is needed because of the distance. The conversation centres on the embodiment ofqarabah and the significance of physical intimacy in keeping the totality of obligations intact. As Khuloudsays, all that is left is the intention and wish to help each other, without the ability to actualise this wish. And,while Amina’s forced move from her family home to an exterior gaze seems to have given her independencefrom her consanguineal and affinal families, the dilation, the literal spreading out of the family, has notlessened but created increased responsibility for her, a responsibility that her family can only partially help tocarry out due to the distance between them. In line with the Palestinian meta-narrative of the family standingtall through suffering and destruction, Khuloud contended in a steady yet hesitant voice that emotions cannotbe affected, thus articulating that even physical dilation entails becoming closer.In making sense of this ethnography, the subsequent analysis is informed by an attempt to unfoldwhat is implied in Layla’s remark that evening in Khuloud’s garden: ‘hard things make people closer, I guess’. Ithus hope to disentangle the implications of the contraction and dilation of living arrangements on kinrelations. On the basis of the above, I argue that both ‘becoming closer’ in terms of literally moving closer, aswell as a family becoming physically dilated due to incarceration, both actualise aspects of the whole ofobligation that makes up the detainees’ wives’ duration. These aspects are intrinsic to the whole of obligationimplied in qarabah (closeness) and comprise imāya (protection), akkam (control) and mas’uliyya(responsibility). The three aspects are folded into each other and appear as differentiations of the whole ofobligations according to the relationships in which they are actualised. In the following, I move to a furtheranalytical register by elucidating my ethnographic data by considering contraction and dilation as theoreticalrather than descriptive terms, based on how they figure in the work of Bergson (cf. Deleuze 1988).VI.VIII Bergson’s Notions of Contraction and DilationAs already argued above, actualisation of the three aspects of protection, control and responsibility isengendered through the dynamics of the contraction and dilation of the living arrangements of the detainees’wives during their husbands’ incarceration. In this section, however, the notions of contraction and dilationare understood on the basis of Bergson’s definition of these terms through the image of an inverted cone. Atthe bottom of the cone figures ‘duration’ as ‘a complete state of coexistence’ containing the simultaneity of thevirtual realm and its possible actualisations. The complete state of coexistence equals the duration of humanlife (cf. Deleuze 1988: 59). The bottom of the cone is thus the point at which existence is most contracted andwhere all of duration exists at once and comprises virtual existence in its entire temporality. In the words ofBergson, ‘pure duration might well be nothing but a succession of qualitative changes which melt into andpermeate one another, without precise outlines, without any tendency to externalize themselves in relation toone another’ (Bergson 1910: 104-5). For instance, the whole of obligations may be understood as duration. Inits virtual existence, it thus exists at the bottom of the cone, where everything is contained at once. The top ofthe cone is where existence is most dilated. This means that existence at the top of the cone only includesaspects of duration, not its entirety. At the top of the cone we therefore find aspects of duration that areactualised in matter at specific points in time. In the particular case where the (Palestinian) whole ofobligations forms the bottom of the cone, it would be the three aspects of protection, control and147


esponsibility that are actualised in matter at the top of the cone. Actualised in matter here means that theyare empirically present as signposts of closeness in the lives of my informants. Bergson calls the top and thebottom of the cone ‘sheets of time’, a reference to the different layers of the cone and how they are always coexistingdifferentiations contained in one duration (ibid.: 61). Not all aspects of duration are actualised, andwhen they are, it may be only situationally. Through this analytic, below I examine the actualisation ofprotection, control and responsibility during the changing living arrangements of the families, therebyattempting to situate the lives of the detainees’ wives between a dilated and a contracted state of duration.V.IX Closing inYasmin’s brother-in-law would come and go incessantly to her flat, running errands for her and often calling tocheck if she was doing OK. Her spotless flat, with its fancy, modern, Arabic furniture, her smart clothes andthe impeccable servings to her guests were more than just OK. Without doubt, the reason for Yasmin’sprivileged material conditions was that she had married into a family of prosperity, one of the most affluent inthe entire city. Making sure that she did not lack for anything, through his acts of looking after her, herbrother-in-law actualised the obligation intrinsic in his role as a brother-in-law to care for and protect Yasminduring her detained husband’s absence. What he cannot make up for with endless bags of soft drinks and tastyIsraeli crisps is the abiding, resigned loneliness emanating from Yasmin. During one conversation she said:Yasmin: I tried to buy a car because I did not want to be lonely. Every time I have a visitor, I wantthem to stay.Lotte: Did the car change these things for you?Yasmin: No. This feeling is stuck with me, of loneliness. There is nothing that is nice [fiš iši ilu]because the person who makes me happy is missing. When I go out of the house in the car, peoplewill say that I went out late, so I do not go out a lot. No, I always organise myself so I have adestination. I take my children, because I want them to feel like they had a good experience.On a later visit, I asked her if she was using the car a lot, to which she said no, confirming that she only use itfor short trips so that people cannot talk about her. Hinged upon the increased social control that occurredupon the detention of the women’s husbands, other people’s gossip behind their back or even in the faces ofthe detainees’ wives was another recurrent theme in the therapeutic groups and in the women’s conversationswith me. Yasmin attempted to control the gossip of outsiders by making sure her direction was always clearwhen she was out in her big four-by-four. The gossip from within, though, leaves little space to counter. Thewomen talked about it in the group of detainees’ wives that Yasmin had attended:Lotte: Did they [the other detainees’ wives] encourage you?Yasmin: Sometimes, when I fight with my brother-in-law, I just quit the situation. They taught meto defend myself.148


Lotte: Like yesterday?Yasmin: Yeah, my brother-in-law’s wife said to her husband that I’d done something bad, which Ihad not. She cleaned the front door and said that I was not helping her. My brother-in-law and hissister then asked me why didn’t you do it? I said no, I do not want to do it, I am not in the mood todo it.As Yasmin shows with these words, there is another aspect to the protective relationship with her brother-inlawthat was actualised upon her husband’s incarceration. Protection entails more than simply making surethat Yasmin is OK. What should be protected not least is the tie between her and her family-in-law, includingprotection of the responsibilities she is obliged to fulfil, whether or not her husband is present. Control of hermovements and her activities is thus not only a matter of what she does during her days inside or away fromher flat, but as much with regards to the entire household of her family-in-law.Although actualised in another relationship, this resonates with Mervat’s account of how she was assumed toundertake household chores in the house of her family-in-law. Being under constant scrutiny is a feeling thatPalestinian women across the generations describe once they start living in the homes of their husbands’families. Interestingly this also applies to those women who are now the mothers-in-law of my primaryinterlocutors. This shows how it forms part of the virtual: it is omnipresent in time and space, yet how andwhen it is actualised differs. To be under scrutiny is therefore not a marker distinguishing detainees’ wivesfrom other married Palestinian women. The distinguishing accentuation attendant on a detained husband’sabsence lies in the closeness of the virtual scrutinising gaze.Like Yasmin’ brother-in-law, I could calculate the minutes before Maryam’s mother-in-law wouldstand, not in the hallway but in the door to the living room, when Mayy and I were visiting Maryam.Suddenly, with an authoritative presence, she walked into the living room without enquiring whether it wasappropriate that she sit down. Entering, listening and taking over the conversation is, however, appropriate perse: it is an aspect of the whole of obligation she actualises by controlling the relationships of her daughter-inlaw.Once, after the mother-in-law had left the living room again and Maryam slowly released the pillowshe was squeezing in her lap, she told me how, at the onset of her husband’s incarceration, she tried to go abouther life, doing her everyday chores as she would if he had been there. Normally she asked him if it was OK forher to leave the house and told him where she was going. In his absence she just went about doing her errands.After a while her mother-in-law reprimanded her, saying that Maryam was running around in the city withouta purpose. She made it clear to Maryam that the absence of her husband did not mean that she could dowhatever she wanted. Her mother-in-law therefore took on the role of her husband in terms of grantingpermission for Maryam to go out and keeping track of her whereabouts. This episode resembles the exchangeof words on the morning in Mervat’s bedroom, when her mother in law scolded her for wearing a nightgownthat the neighbours could see, even though Mervat was not out of bed yet.It is not only mothers-in-law and brothers-in-law who actualise the aspects of protection, controland responsibilities. As Kanaana and Muhawi writes, the relationship between sisters-in-law and wives is alsocharacterised by structural antagonism (Kanaana and Muhawi 1989). In her analysis of brother-sister149


elationships in Lebanon, Joseph argues that this relationship should be considered as something other/morethan an extension of the honour-shame codex through which parents control and protect their children( Joseph 1999: 126). Apart from being a structural connection in which the brother is obliged to protect hissister, the brother-sister relationship is foremost a psychodynamic process of gendering (1999: 129). Brothersand sisters use each other in their upbringing as models of the other sex, and therefore become each other’ssignificant gendering other, through which boys and girls become men and women respectively. As a result,the relationship between a woman and her sister-in-law can hardly be other than antagonistic since thesubject’s object for unfolding sexuality is changed from sister to wife, which then becomes a potential sourceof jealousy. In addition, not only are brothers obliged to protect their sisters, the sisters are also interested insecuring the loyalty of the wife, who, even in endogamous first-cousin marriages, is considered an ajnabi(stranger) to the intimate household. This is actualised in slight yet abiding ways by always being around whenthere is women’s talk in which husbands, sex, families and families-in-law are the topics of conversation.One example appears to epitomise this incitement to ensure loyalty. I was visiting Fatemeh togetherwith Rawan and we were talking quietly. The visit naturally lasted longer than an ordinary hospitality visit ofthe sort that forms part of any Palestinian woman’s ordinary day, often more than once a day (Gjerding 2008).The structure of such visits follows a prescribed sequence, where, initially, the guest is served a soft drink orjuice, sometimes accompanied by little bowls of crackers, roasted pumpkin seeds or the more expensiveroasted nuts, according to the prosperity of the family. Subsequently a plate of fresh fruit along with a knife isgiven for each guest to enjoy for herself. Following the serving of delicately arranged fruit is an offering ofsweet tea with mint, and after a while the visit should be rounded of with the serving of steaming hot, strong,sugared coffee as a marker that the visit can now end. The ceremonially structured visit ordinarily lasts nomore than three quarters of an hour. Thus, when we had both drunk the soft drinks that Fatemeh’s sister hadserved us and the tea which came a little later without taking any notice of her, and neither Fatemeh nor wemade the recognisable moves to leave, the sister-in-law sat down at a point when we were having aconversation that was clearly confidential. We were talking about sex, about Fatemeh’s conjugal relationshipand feelings about having sex with her husband, and we were all being delicate in our choice of words. 82 Fromour voices and the disturbed yet wordless expressions on our faces, upon her entrance Fatemeh’s sister-in-lawknew that we were speaking confidentially. This did not stop her from sitting down and waiting for us tocontinue the intimate conversation, which I clumsily tried to change into something more innocent in ordernot to compromise Fatemeh’s confidentiality. As with Maryam’s mother-in-law, it was the virtual obligationand actual responsibility of Fatemeh’s sister-in-law to know the contents of our talk. All she did was actualiseit through the ritual of an ordinary guest visit.The incident invites discussion of the actualisation of the whole of obligations that can be said to unfold in thesmallest of everyday interaction and chores: in how practices belonging to the realm of the ordinary areperformed, almost ordinarily in the absence of the detained husband from his agnatic family and his wife.VI.X Ordinary ObligationsThe ethnography above has shown how the configuration of living arrangements that occur with the82The themes of sexuality, affect and imprisonment are investigated further in Chapter VII.150


detention of a husband imply subtle but pervasive accentuation of the affinal relations surrounding his wife.This accentuation occurs through the actualisation of aspects that are intrinsic to the whole of obligationspermeating qarabah, in which circulate feelings of loyalty and betrayal adhering to notions of honour andshame in the relationship between a woman and her family-in-law. The actualised aspects are, as shown here,control, protection and responsibility. Significantly the actualised aspects exist only as differentiations that arereconfigured situationally. For instance, the actualisation of protecting and controlling the whereabouts ofdetainees’ wives form part of the virtual obligation to secure a family’s honour that rests on protecting themodesty of the women of the family. From being the responsibility of a woman’s brothers, this obligation istransferred to her husband upon marriage. As described above, however, his detention disperses thatresponsibility to the detainee’s mother and brother in particular, a task that is easier to perform when thewoman in question is living with her family-in-law.For both Amina and Aisha, the imprisonment of their husbands caused a change in their places ofresidence. Aisha is physically nearer to the house of her family-in-law. Conversely, Amina and her family arethe only ones to have been dilated in space. They are not living close by each other anymore, the sorrow ofwhich her sister Khuloud described as residing in the impossibility to fulfil the obligations intrinsic inqarabah, of helping each other in the ordinary chores of the everyday. For Maryam, Yasmin, Mervat and otherinterlocutors with them, their living arrangements did not change. I nonetheless argue that, despite the lack ofchanges in residence, an accentuation of their relations to their family-in-law did take place.The Palestinian understandings of patrilocality and patrilinearity imply that the married women’sprimary everyday relationships become those of their family-in-law. Joseph states that a woman remains theresponsibility of her agnatic family, despite her marriage ( Joseph 1999: 124). And, like Clarke (2007: 383),she emphasises that the responsibility to protect and control the whereabouts of their sister remains with herconsanguineal brothers (ibid.). In the everyday, however, it is a married woman’s family-in-law that is decisivein these matters. They care for her financially and oversee her movements. The person who in principle shouldcarry out these obligations is the woman’s husband. If her brothers do not agree with their sister’s husband, afamily meeting will take place to resolve the dispute. If she is living in their house, however, it is often thewomen’s family-in-law to which she is responsible in the everyday. It is these concrete manifestations ofresponsibility that I consider actualise the whole of obligation. The wife is obliged towards her mother-in-law,concretely by being responsible for undertaking chores in the house, taking care of the children of herhusband’s sisters and sharing the daily running of the household. This is the same whether a woman is marriedto a detainee or to a man who is not imprisoned. But the absence of a husband engenders this whole ofobligations to be actualised as accentuated upon his detention. What is missing can be thought of as amediating relationship between the woman and her family-in-law. As Mervat’s case demonstrated, herhusband showed outstanding loyalty to her, and they moved to other premises away from his family home.Upon incarceration, the position of the husband is transferred to his wife’s family-in-law, and hisresponsibilities are distributed between her mother-in-law, brother-in-law and sister-in-law. What fills in thevoid of the disappeared husband is therefore actualised lines of affect centred around protection, control andresponsibility that are both intrinsic to Palestinian notions of kinship and potential sources of tacit yetcontinuing domestic conflict.151


In the cases of Yasmin and Fatemeh, we saw how the brother-in-law becomes the person responsiblefor providing for the wife of a detainee, both financially and materially. A responsibility he nonetheless shareswith both the woman’s mother-in-law and sister-in-law is protecting and controlling the whereabouts andbehaviour of his brother’s wife. Fatemeh’s case alluded to the complex and potentially ambiguous relationshipbetween a woman and her brother-in-law, who have to be close but due to the ambiguity of their closeness areboth arībeen (close (pl.)) and gharibeen (strange (pl.)). Intrinsic to their qarabah is the potential of a sexualrelationship that could be actualised by Fatemeh’s husband’s death, a likely scenario in the context of theIsraeli-Palestinian conflict. The two of them being alone together therefore become close to compromisingFatemeh’s virtue. All it takes is rumour.In a manner subtler than a brother-in-law actualising the obligation to control and protect the wifeof his brother is the slight but still restrictive mode of control undertaken by a sister-in-law. One instance ofthis is Fatemeh’s sister-in-law wanting to make sure that knowledge of Fatemeh’s intimate thoughts should notbecome known to anyone other than her family-in-law, nor to leave the house without them knowing. It washer particular obligation to ensure this as the person with access to women’s private forums and ensuring that awoman’s loyalty lies with her family-in-law. This also influenced my ability to tape conversations. Whereas thefear that the sound files would fall into the hands of the Israelis was the most frequent reason for theinterlocutors’ reluctance to have our conversations taped, the family-in-law was an unspoken cause too. Thisdawned on me in two instances when women did not agree to being taped until their mothers-in-law hadagreed to it in my presence. The relationship between a woman and her mother-in-law is thus rarely withoutcomplexities. What is stressed, however, in the absence of a detained husband is how the obligations towardshis wife are transferred from his realm of responsibility to those of his mother, brothers and sisters. And, dueto a women’s dependence on her family-in-law for means of livelihood, housing and protection and inmaintaining her children, the whole of obligations becomes the space in which a detainee’s wife becomes moreclosely tied to her family-in-law. In this manner, family indeed becomes closer in the face of hardship.We can conceive of this closing in of family relations as a contraction of the relational spacesurrounding the detainees’ wives through the actualisation of relational obligations. In line with Bergson’sdistinction between the virtual and the actual, the virtual includes the unconscious, the subjective, being anon-numerical multiplicity that also makes up duration 83 (Deleuze 1988: 42). Actualisation from the virtualto the actual occurs through ‘lines of differentiation that correspond to differences in kind’ (ibid.), that is,differences such as those between time and space, differences that cannot be conceived of as differences indegree.I suggest that we think about the virtual obligations and the actual implications of being a marriedwoman in a family-in-law as the duration of Palestinian notions of kinship that are always already there,whether or not a woman’s husband has been incarcerated. The Palestinian notion of kinship may beconceptualised as a virtual duration that is present in the women’s subjective duration. The analysis has83Notably, Bergson’s use of the unconscious is not to be mistaken for Freud’s notion of the unconscious. ForBergson, psychology is only that of the virtual that is actualised, made into matter, concretely and figurativelyspeaking.152


established how an imprisoned husband’s absence actualises for his wife a state of her duration in which all thevirtual obligations intrinsic to duration are actualised. The image elicited is that of the bottom of the invertedcone that is termed contraction and where all the virtual is actualised. This contraction is a way toconceptualise detainees’ wives’ situation theoretically, but I argue that it is their lived experience too: therelationship with their family-in-law is contracted – it closes in on them. In Amina’s case, the oppositehappened: her relations with her family-in-law were dilated because they live in Amman, as were those withher consanguineal family because of her house being demolished, which caused them to live further apart thanthey would have chosen to. In spite of this, Amina shares something with the other woman: she shares therelational contraction of her life world. For the detainees’ wives, becoming close therefore means a closing inof the relational space around them.This analysis speaks to Sa’ar’s analysis of how Palestinian women in Israel must strike a balancebetween weakness and power in order to gain the protection and help of their families in times between arock and a hard place (Sa’ar 2001). Although Sa’ar’s interlocutors seem to be primarily working womenenjoying social status and certain privileges, her analysis is in tune with that of this chapter, as exemplifiedabove all by the title of her article: ‘Lonely in Your Firm Grip’ (Sa’ar 2001: 723). The difference between Sa’ar’sinterlocutors and mine is the increased firmness of the grip that is actualised for detainees’ wives during theirhusbands’ incarceration.VI.XI ConclusionThis chapter has interrogated the notion of the Palestinian family as a stronghold against the occupation andwhat it implies for families to be such a stronghold. As Massad writes, and as Al-Ali pictured in his drawing,this notion of the Palestinian family rests on gendered complicity (Massad 1995): men fight and give theirlives for Palestine, whereas women support and reproduce new generations of Palestinians. This dynamic ispart of the Palestinian duration. What the chapter has conveyed is how this duration is actualised in theinstance of incarceration, especially for the wives of detainees. The absence of an incarcerated husbandactualises responsibilities that form part of the Palestinian duration that I with reference to Bergson havetermed ‘the whole of obligations’. To the women married to the incarcerated, this actualisation entails acontraction of their affinal relations to the extent that they close in on the women. The term qarabah gives usaccess to what the actualisation of obligations means to the wives of detainees. Lines of connectivity and affectare reconfigured as the husband is repetitively disappearing because his absence is actualised by the mundanepractices of control, protection and responsibility that are exercised over his wife in his absence. It thusmirrors the conclusion to Chapter V, where a similar movement unfolds in a temporal register through thepractices a detainee’s wife has to engage in to stay related to the detainee.The chapter has also considered how the Palestinian family figures in the two constitutivediscourses of the standing language – the Palestinian meta-narrative and global psychological discourseunderstanding of suffering as trauma. In the Palestinian meta-narrative, the Palestinian family is articulated asa stronghold against the occupation, showing umūd (steadfastness) and containing whatever effectsimprisonment may entail for a family. In the global, psychological discourse, the Palestinian family is duallyrepresented as that which is ruptured by trauma, and also as a source of healing that trauma through a153


distribution of suffering and resilience that appears similar to the ethos of containing potentiallycompromising knowledge within the family. By attending to discourse and public representations on the onehand and intimate details and gestures unfolding among kin relations on the other, incarceration does notappear to actualise any rupture in the Palestinian families of detainees. Rather than ripped apart, the socialrelationships surrounding a detainee become closer upon his incarceration due to the actualisation of thewhole of obligations it entails for his family. What are actualised are aspects of control, protection andresponsibility, aspects that delineate how the wives of detainees are cared for in the wake of their husbands’incarceration.Whereas these protective mechanisms hold the family together, make them closer and allow themto cope with external encroachments, my analysis shows how the absence of detained husbandssimultaneously actualises an accentuated mode of being with affinal relations for their wives. This actualisationcreates the wife as a figure with enlarged responsibilities and enforced obligations who becomes closer to herhusband’s relatives. The configuration may imply greater independence for some women, yet for the majoritythe absence of a husband entails their affinal relations closing in on them. This conclusion speaks to a tensionthat is eclipsed through the standing language’s focus on the family, namely the tension between the conjugateand the family.The contribution of this chapter to the thesis’s concern with the configuration of affect andrelations in the light of non-linear suffering is that it shows what incarceration implies for the kin relationssurrounding a wife of a detainee. I have described how the non-linear absence of a husband causes affinalrelations to contract and close in on detainees’ wives. This contraction in the realm of the actual entails thatthe detainees’ wives are actualised as the duration of the whole of obligation. In other words, incarcerationcauses the virtual whole of obligation to be actualised, meaning that the women’s lives are a contraction ofduration. The women’s lives can therefore be pictured as the bottom of the inverted cone. This shows thatincarceration causes Palestinian notions of kinship to become how life is actualised, rather than how it isvirtually understood. Consequentially, the wives of detainees live in close adherence to the Palestinian notionof kinship as patriarchally organised.Having elucidated the configuration of relations between detainees’ wives and their affinal familiesupon incarceration, the following two chapters are devoted to an analysis of what is eclipsed in this picture:the conjugate and the wife herself.154


Chapter VIIDisembodied ConjugalityLonely the day came to youLonelyA lonely day came to you from the windowAnd all you opened [for it] was the silence of the closet(where your wakeful remains lieon blood frozen on the floor tiles) 84According to the Palestinian ethos of containing intimate knowledge within al- ā’ila (the family), it wouldhave been appropriate to end my inquiry into the meaning of incarceration in intimate relationships at myinterlocutors’ uttering of ‘sa’b’ (difficult). Yet, their uttering of ‘sa’b’ was where my conversation with themstarted, by me asking ‘kef’ (how)?The present chapter investigates the effect of incarceration upon conjugal intimacy between a wifeand her incarcerated husband. In my analysis, I place particular emphasis on the women’s diaries and theirletters to their absent husbands, testifying to their acts in standing tall and showing umūd (steadfastness)throughout the temporality of sentences that seem to match what my interlocutors consider the time of awoman’s adult life: as the mother of her children, as a knowing wife and a caring daughter – a woman’s bestyears, in their words.Against the backdrop of a detainee’s non-linear but enduring absence, I examine what is implied byliving a conjugal relation where being together means, in the best instance, seeing each other – like Fatemehand her husband – once, twice, or maybe twenty times annually for forty-five minutes through a scratchedPlexiglas surface. During such a visits, conjugal intimacy means exchanging words down a phone in anatmosphere of an anxious need for closeness with the detainee, sometimes with a whole range of relatives,including mother, wife, children and sisters, being present and sharing that need. Alternatively conjugal visitsare not allowed, and information about the other passes through a detainee’s mother to his wife or throughthe captive conjugate’s children. Or else knowledge about the other is exchanged through letters whose wordsare desensitised, revealing nothing but knowledge that can be shared with anyone – the antithesis of intimacy.With a point of departure in the means and forums available to my interlocutors to sustain conjugalintimacy during incarceration, this chapter investigates how the conjugal relationship is configured duringdetention. I ask what intimacy means and what fills the void left by the detained husband’s physical absence.84 Ghada al-Shafi’I, from ‘Lonely the day came to you’, in al-Shafi’I 1999: 33. Translation from Arabic into English isdone by Nathalie Khankhan whereas the transliteration is carried out by Christina Copty:Wa dan at k an-nah ra danat k an-nah r al-wa d min an-n fi aw-lam nafta lahu aira amt al- az naf ha baqay ka s hira ala damm yatajammidu fawqa al-bal )155


The overall objective is to elucidate what the non-linear absence of a prison sentence entails for a conjugalrelationship.In his essay ‘The uncanniness of the ordinary’, Cavell evokes marriage as an image of domesticityemployed in tragedy (Cavell 1988: 176):It stands to reason that if some image of human intimacy, call it marriage, or domestication, is thefictional equivalent of what the philosophers of ordinary language understand as the ordinary, callthis image of the everyday as the domestic, then the threat to the ordinary that philosophy namesskepticism, should show up in fictions’ favourite threats to forms of marriage, namely in forms ofmelodrama and tragedy.To render marriage emblematic of the ordinary is an analytical move that invites examination of how theconjugate is configured during incarceration despite its gloss being ordinary in the occupied territory due tothe sheer number of Palestinian families with a male relative incarcerated in Israel. My examination isinformed by Cavell’s notion of tragedy as imbued with enduring skepticism, rather than the structure movingtoward a tragic climax characteristic of the Greek tragedies discussed in the introduction (cf. Willner 1982).The notion of tragedy in relation to Palestinians incarcerated in Israel is nonetheless far from both aninvocation of pride in the national struggle for statehood and the notion of umūd in the face of theoccupation. When I evoke the notion of tragedy, it is in order to zoom in on the meaning of incarceration forthe wives of the detainees, rather than the meaning it has for Palestinians as a collective or for the detaineesthemselves. The previous chapter showed how Palestinian notions of kinship are accentuated during adetained husband’s absence, reinforcing the social ideals of what I have termed the whole of obligations. Theinquiry into the conjugal relationship in the face of incarceration opens an avenue to another relationaluniverse and the ways in which its attendant affect is configured when one part in the relation is absent.Revisiting the issue of the detainees’ wives temporalities examined in Chapter V, here I take Cavell’snotion of marriage in his analysis of the film Woman of the Year (Cavell 1988: 177-8) as my point of departurefor enquiring into the ordinary through the lens of conjugal intimacy:Marriage here is being presented as an estate meant not as a distraction from the pain ofconstructing happiness from a helpless, absent world, but as the scene in which the chance forhappiness is shown as the mutual acknowledgment of separateness, in which the prospect is notfor the passing of years (until death parts us) but for the willing repetition of days, willingnessfor the everyday (until our true minds become unreadable to one another) (1988: 178).Here, one senses Cavell’s reliance on Wittgenstein’s ideas of forms of life as a willingness for each other and asa premise for intelligibility and community (Luedger Viefhues-Bailey 2008: 5). This reliance becomes evidentin the way that Cavell conceives of marriage as an entanglement between an ordinary resting on, respectively,the ‘repetition of days’ and acknowledgement of the other. As I argued in Chapter III, acknowledgementoccurs through reading, and allowing oneself to be read by, the other. According to Cavell’s definition,marriage lasts as long as it is possible, or willed, for the partners to be intelligible to one another. I adhere to156


this notion of marriage due to its lack of reference to romantic love because I hesitate to make claims about myinterlocutors’ feelings in relation to the specificity of the romance that is part of the European culturalheritage. I do not rule out the possibility that their marriages involve those kinds of sentiments, but myconcern is what a marriage means when ‘the willing repetition of days, willingness for the everyday’ is severedby the incarceration of a spouse.Subscribing to Cavell’s definition of marriage allows my analytical gaze to reverberate with notionsof mutual respect and obligation that in Islam are intrinsic to marriage according to the renowned Islamicphilosopher of marriage and sexuality, Al-Ghazali (1058-1111) (cf. Farah 1984). Al-Ghazali continues to be asignificant voice in Muslim marital concerns, as he is one of the few Islamic philosophers who have dealt withsuch themes. Given that Islam is a universal and infinite truth according to al-Qur’an, al-Ghazali’s authorityon these matters still pertains. According to the historian Madeleine Farah, the changes that different socialconditions have bought about in the Middle East constitute only minor alterations, which is why I refer to themarital obligations in Islam here. Central to marriage in Islam is that, if mutual obligations 85 are not met, themarriage can be dissolved. Since incarceration severs the possibility of fulfilling obligations that are part of thewilling repetition of the everyday, it is pertinent to ask: is it still a marriage?The present chapter develops further an argument put forward in Chapter V, namely how tounderstand incarceration by way of Strathern’s premise that although connections may be cut, the relation inwhich these connections form part is still in place (Strathern 2004: 81). She also argues that such cuts elicitother relations (ibid.). What follows, then, is an analysis of the ways in which this cut is lived and what itelicits as experienced by detainees’ wives. I open my analysis with a number of cases that bear testimony to theseverance that marks the women’s experience of their husbands’ imprisonment. This material serves tocontextualise how incarceration spares neither extraordinary heroes nor ordinary Palestinians in its effects.Subsequently the chapter’s central analysis of diaries and conjugal correspondence between a wife and herimprisoned husband will convey the configured relations elicited by the cut conjugate. The chapter thusalternates between the experienced splits and the cutting of relationships. Whereas Strathern’s notion of thecut sheds light on the configuration of the conjugal relationship, a focus on experience elucidates what is feltto be severed when the conjugal relationship is still in place but the body of the incarcerated husband isabsent.Invoking the idea of an analytical continuum, I analyse the absent body on the one hand withreference to the Palestinian notion of umūd, according to which the absence of a detainee from the lives ofhis relatives does not alter the bonds between them: if anything his absence strengthen the bonds because ofthe honour his activities of resistance has generated. One the other hand I try out Cavell’s reading of85 According to Farah, marital obligations are as follows: ‘1) Sexual intercourse becomes lawful and children born ofthe union are legitimate. 2) The wife becomes entitled to her mahr [dowry] in accordance with the stipulations ofthe contract. 3) The wife becomes entitled to maintenance. 4) The husband is entitled to restrain the wife’smovements in a reasonable manner and to exercise marital authority. 5) Mutual rights of inheritance areestablished. 6) ‘Iddah (prescribed waiting period) is observed upon the death of the husband or upon dissolutionof the marriage. 7) Prenuptial agreements and stipulations are to be enforced. 8) A woman cannot be forced tochange the juridical rite to which she belongs unless she so chooses in order to expedite the marriage to a manwho belongs to another rite. 9) Neither party acquires an interest in the property of the other by reason ofmarriage’ (Farah 1984; 13).157


Wittgenstein, according to which the body is the field of expression of the soul (Cavell 1979: 356). Cavellremarks that I neither have nor am in my body: my body is simply who I am (1979: 397-8). In this sense, thebody becomes the only way in which to know the other by engaging in the willing reading of each other’sbodies.I posit my analysis along this continuum in which physical presence is on the one hand taken to beinsignificant in terms of sustaining relations, while on the other hand it means everything by being the onlymeans human beings have to know each other, albeit imperfectly. I analyse the configuration of affect withinand around the captive conjugate as suspended between Al-Shafi’i’s evocation of loneliness in the poemopening the chapter and Palestinian sentiments concerning detainees in Israeli prisons where one might speakof denial of the knowledge that the detainee’s body is missing from the ordinary. The vital questions regardingthe captive conjugate then become the following: What are the possibilities for a married couple to know eachother when the body is missing? How is affect configured around an absent body? Pervading the chapter arequestions of knowledge of the other, acknowledgement, betrayal and denial, and how these aspects ofdetention infringe on the captive conjugate.VII.I Practicing Captive ConjugalityFollowing Cavell’s notion of marriage as that aspect of the domestic that epitomises tragedy, my concern hereis the configuration of habitual practices of everyday conjugality in the shadow of absence. The ethnographyin this section will point to aspects of the habitual as central to an understanding of that which is not lost butwhich has disappeared from the everyday of a detainee's wife. I open this enquiry by taking a closer look atAmina, who has featured pervasively throughout the thesis. As has been made apparent in the excerpts fromAmina’s narratives, her language reflects her personality as a ‘simple woman’ (niswan bassita). 86 Amina doesnot speak eloquently, and her vocabulary is simple and often understated. Her mode of speaking is differentfrom what I have earlier alluded to as narratives in the form of perlocutionary acts, the latter being a mode ofnarrating suffering that locates it as a source of honour and a sign of proper Palestinianness. I encountered thismode of narration especially among the widows and mothers of martyrs and detainees. Amina’s speech couldhardly be further from this mode of expression. I asked how she did it; living through five years withoutpermission to visit her husband. She replied: ‘It was so difficult, I used to make him breakfast in the morningbefore he went to work, and lunch when he came back. But after that I got used to the idea that he is not here.’Later she elaborated: ‘Everything, all of life is difficult, he is needed in everything and it is difficult without aman’. During my first conversation with Amina, at which only she, Rawan and I were present, I asked her ifshe missed her husband all the time or only on special occasions. Amina answered: ‘No, always. And especiallywhen I feel bad, or when I have or problem or feel tired…when we were sitting together and spoke with eachother. And his way of making me feel better when I am exhausted or when there is something making memad’.86 Bassita (f) has a dual meaning in the Palestinian vernacular. It is used to describe people who are not educated, whoare farmers and live a life different from what is considered a modern life. Given the significance of the farmer asa Palestinian symbol, bassita has positive connotations (cf. Swedenburg 1990). Also, it is used as a compliment forpeople, mostly women, who are straightforward and honest. Bassita was used of Amina by her acquaintances andby a dear friend, as was Aisha in the twin meanings of the word.158


The aspects of living together that have evaporated from Amina’s life cannot be captured in avocabulary of disruptive change. Cooking breakfast for a spouse is probably one of the least dramatic aspectsof a conjugal life, yet to Amina it was how her day started when her husband formed part of her daily life. Shestill gets up and cooks breakfast, gets the three girls ready for school and makes sure her mother has her firstcup of sweet tea. The only thing missing is her husband. Her mention of this ordinary moment of life indicateshow, to her, it is first and foremost the habitual elements of life that are missing due to the severance caused byher husband's imprisonment. Whereas Amina and her husband, now that she has temporary permission tovisit him twice a month, can talk issues over during the visits, such exchanges do not replace the habitualtogetherness inherent in, for instance, sharing a meal.The absence of an ordinary part of a married couple’s life is experienced not only by the wife, butamong her social network too. Fardoz told me that her participation in women’s talk about relationships andsex has been severed with the imprisonment of her husband. When other women discuss these issues, Fardozcannot participate, since she has nothing to bring into the conversation, as her sexual life is considered not toexist in the absence of her husband: ‘What can I say? If I say something it will be misunderstood’. Sheelaborated to me that, whereas detainees’ wives know what it is like ‘to miss the person who makes me mosthappy’, other women can potentially judge any sign she gives that she is not showing umūd or waiting for herhusband to be released. Admitting to missing him, to missing a sexual life, amounts to weakness, the potentialof which threatens public discourse about support for the detainees and the national struggle. The twin doubtabout a woman’s support for the revolutionary national movement and her morality promotes suspicion andrumour. To Fardoz, this entails that she avoids talking about her personal feelings to the friends with whomshe used to share intimate aspects of her life. What alters Fardoz’s mode of being in close friendships is thusthe lack of a reference point, the man with whom her feelings of desire can be safely stored. We spoke aboutwhat she does when these feelings arise, and she asked me back, knowing there was no answer I could give:‘Should I dream about it or forget it? It [his sentence] is a hundred years? When my dreams fly away I try todo other things, I read, or speak to my children. I try to think of it as a test from God. But at night, the dreamscome. What can I do about it?’ Like Amina conveying how she misses her husband to share ‘all of life’ with,from a daily routine to someone to turn to at those times when the everyday is taking its toll on her, Fardoz’spossibility of acknowledging her longing and desire for her husband to herself and to others is in his absencesomething she has do to without.In his article ‘Pharmaceutical Intimacy’, Goodfellow discusses the reverberations of a break in asexual relationship not as a loss of an object, but ‘with the passing of a way of being in the world’ (Goodfellow2008: 17). I take the cases of Amina’s and Fardoz’s emotional lives to elucidate how, in the face ofincarceration of their husbands, they stand no less in relationship to them, yet what has passed is a habitualway of being, and of being together, that is intrinsic to a conjugal relationship. What is unsettled is, asdiscussed earlier, the fact that the temporality of what has passed is indefinite in the instance of incarcerationunderstood as non-linear absence. The cases of Amina and Fardoz make manifest the fact that a husband’spresence as a defining figure in and of the everyday forms part of a conjugal relationship in the eyes of boththemselves and their relatives and friends. Probing more deeply into the meaning of being a conjugate withoutsharing an everyday, I will call attention to the contours of what is missing, namely corporeality.159


VII.II Contours of a Heroic Absence: The Bed is Cold at NightIn the landscape of Palestinian heroic figures, some occupy a distinct space in the narratives of revolutionarystruggle. One such figure is Yara’s husband, who has been in and out of both Israeli and Palestinian prisons fordecades due to his opposition to both the Israeli occupation and to the Palestine Liberation Organisation'sacceptance of the Oslo accords in 1993 (See also Chapter IV for elaboration on this point). Summarising herhusband’s viewpoint, Yara stated that, ‘Oslo stopped the Intifā a, as if there was no occupation’. Her husbandis now imprisoned in Israel due to accusations that he was centrally engaged in the violent acts of resistancethat had Aisha’s husband and Amina’s husband, brother and nephew detained. Yara’s husband’s sentence is wellover twenty years. She was born in Dar Nūra, although she lives a different life from the women whose lives inthe village have hitherto been my point of ethnographic reference. I did not meet her through the women Iknew in Dar Nūra. She is a close friend and neighbour of a Palestinian friend of mine, who introduced us oneevening at her house. On the occasion of our first conversations we met in her home and, after the firstawkward moments of an interview with a stranger, she realised that I knew the basis of what her situation waslike, even though my knowledge was based on women belonging to a different stratum of Palestinian societythan herself. Yara is an influential and respected woman in the Palestinian women’s movement. Meeting herhusband when she was thirteen, it was to be twelve years before they were married due to his politicalactivities. By then he had been imprisoned five times, the last time for four years. Yara knew that politics wasthe air her husband breathed, and she herself became involved in politics. ‘I was really in love with him, and Idid not care about other things. I think it was enough that my name was related to his name; I did not want tothink further than that’. As emerges from her words, Yara’s marriage crystallises a ‘political marriage’ ( Johnson,Abu-Nahleh and Moors 2009; see also Rosenfeld 2004), a category that, as stated, comprises marriages thatflourished just before and during al-Intifā a al-awwal (the first intifada) and which are different from thepatrilateral parallel cousin marriages that have increased in the course of al-Intifā a al-Aqsa (the secondintifada) ( Johnson, Abu-Nahled, Moors 2009: 11). In political marriages both spouses are active politicallywithin the same movement or party, and it is their political rather than their agnatic status that features as thesignposts for a preferred marriage (ibid.). Yara and her husband lived together for three years before he wasarrested, at which time she was pregnant with their third child.I lived it moment by moment because it was the first time [he was imprisoned] when we weremarried. He stayed 100 days in the [isolation] cells, he was interrogated for three months ,and we cannot see him, we know nothing about him. The lawyer was the only one who can seehim. At that time the Israelis heard that there would be an operation in Jerusalem, so theyarrested Hussein. He halts the work on the operation and nothing happens. That was difficult, Ihad two kids, I was pregnant, and I was working, I didn’t stop going to work; I guess it gives youpower when you decide to continue your life. Maybe, if I were to face it now, I will not be ableto continue, but at that time, I was full of energy because everyone lived the same suffering andwe were all in pain; all the people were united and we helped each other.160


The intensity of Yara’s account of the time of her husband’s most severe imprisonment shines through by theway she switches between the present and the past tense. It happened then, but the feelings of it are with hernow. The sentences she voices in the present tense are ‘and we cannot see him, we know nothing about him,the lawyer was the only one who can see him’, and ‘I guess this gives you the power when you decide tocontinue your life; maybe if I faced it now, I will not be able to continue’. Describing how her husband wasalways in the media 87 , the papers’ writing about the birth of their third child, a girl named abr (patience),Yara said:I did not feel that he was away. I was sad inside, but I was not thinking about it, because I did notwant myself to reach a situation of sadness. When I was younger, I was not that sensitive, now Icannot stand life without him. […] Of course I was a mature woman and I did not allow myselfto be a weak person, but I am sure that it affected me negatively. I mean, now I feel how sad Iam, and these nightmares I have every night about soldiers coming to take my husband, it isrecent, I have never felt like this before.These words indicate how Yara’s personal life is folded into the Palestinian revolutionary movement. How shealternates between the personal and political, the past and present, elucidates precisely how the working of theconflict on temporalities of hope, collective loyalty and betrayal is impossible to evade in analysing herpersonal feelings. Yara’s life serves as an actualisation of how affect comprises both how feelings are managedpublicly and politically, as well as how they are lived. Speaking to Yara and listening to her story represented tome the humbling feeling of being in the presence of a woman whose innermost being was convinced of theimportance of trying to end the occupation. When we finished our first conversation she gently urged us tocontinue talking over dinner, yet before then she sat for a while in her chair, as if realising the significance ofher story. She was moved, and I stumbled for appropriate words, of which all I could come up with was ‘ a b,a b jiddan. indik šak siyya qawiyya’ (It is hard, very hard. You have a strong personality) in anincommensurable attempt to acknowledge the force of her story. She looked at me, shrugged and said, ‘Yes,but the bed is cold at night’. Then we had dinner in their kitchen, leftovers from yesterday.Yara’s story captures the simultaneous existence of the feelings of being a proud Palestinian who hasa husband struggling to fulfil the collective hope for statehood, and the feelings of living with a void created byan absent spouse. Yara describes how, in her younger days, “when the revolutionary struggle still had supportfrom the Palestinian community”, she herself gave everything in order to see the Palestinian state come intobeing. She casts her present sensitivity in the light of her aging: she is nearing 50. It is nonetheless impossiblenot to see how her sensitivity is entangled with the collective fatigue with a struggle that has come to whatfeels like an indefinite halt. This entanglement forms part of her feeling of no longer being able to stand livingwithout her husband. Her choice of words is significant, since her husband is a detainee who still enjoys publicacknowledgement, both locally and internationally. Despite his presence in the public discourse, albeit less so87 Due to the detainees occupying such a pivotal place in Palestinian national conscience there were and are oftenreports about detainees whether well known or as exemplary detainees in Palestinian newspapers, radio andtelevision.161


now, she feels that she is living without him. Understanding the ‘without’ leads us towards her final utterance:“the bed is cold at night”. Resonating evidently with Fardoz’s account of floating desire, and less clear-cut butubiquitous in Amina’s account too, these words concern the absence of her husband’s physical presence. Whatis missing from the conjugal relationship is a body, one that moves and speaks, a body whose warmth makes abed a place to rest and in which to embrace conjugal desire.Yara’s, Fardoz’s and Amina’s stories gesture toward the reconfiguration of the affective lines ofphysical intimacy that are altered with incarceration. Al-Ghazali stresses (cf. Farah 1984), as do Palestiniannotions of kinship, that a pertinent aspect of marriage is how it figures as a container of desire. The aboveaccounts show that the absence of the husband appears to void the marriage as a container of desire due to thephysical absence of the detainee from the life of his wife. An intimate physical relationship, though, does notstand aside the affect that is implied in marriage. Rather, it forms part of the entirety of conjugal affect that isentangled with the whole of obligations, as well as of care, protection and control. All these aspects constitutea line of affect, a line that incarceration differentiates . I noted in the previous chapter that conjugal affect is ingeneral eclipsed in the standing language. The issue of a severed physical relationship is arguably the mostobscured part of it. This also applies to the women and their views of themselves, as well as the ways in whichother detainees’ wives or friends view them.Since sexuality is saturated with morality, its sensitivity makes it a topic that is intricate to discusseven in a confidential setting. This came out clearly in the previous chapter’s description of how Fatemeh’ssister–in-law tried both to interrupt and to listen to a conversation whose content Fatemeh did not want herto know about out of a fear of rumours that none of the detainees’ wives can risk. 88Physical desire was present to my interlocutors as something that was dually contained within thepersonal realm of the individual woman and which proliferated in public spheres as rumours that this or thatwoman was wearing make-up and going to parties in order to attract male attention. Even if the women’smorals allowed them to engage in extramarital affairs, I doubt that they would, just as I doubt that it would bepractically possible to do so unseen. The women are so thoroughly monitored both in and outside of theirhomes that I fail to see how an affair could take place without being disclosed. The desire for the physicalcloseness of their husbands is thus a line of affect that is incorporated into the women’s lives and everyday.Unlike the widows of martyrs, who can either remarry or abandon the idea of new husband and physicalintimacy, the detainees’ wives are constantly reminded of the absence of their husbands, and the presence ofthis absence in how it glues them to the present, so to speak. The form of marriage is still in place, yet in placeof its content is but a void, one that is experienced not as a want but that is worked into their livesindiscernibly. This affective reconfiguration alters the meaning of a conjugal relationship with regard to Islamand Palestinian notions of kinship. Due to national politics and the value attached to resistance against Israel,this alteration is not voiced but merely assumed in the standing language as a worthy national sacrifice thatcalls for umūd, Or, as stated in Chapter III, as something a detainee’s wife is supposed to ‘get over’.The failure of the standing language to acknowledge the sexuality of the detainees’ wives is also a88 Out of respect for my interlocutors I therefore handle the topic of sexuality in a limited fashion, from an intendeddistance and in generic terms that may come across as lacking ethnographic flavour.162


concern of some of the therapists who are offering psychosocial assistance to these women. During the initialdays of my fieldwork, one psychotherapist pointed out that, if I could get the women to speak about how itfelt to be physically alone, she would consider it an achievement. I interpret the counsellor’s appeal to me toinquire into the sexuality of the detainees’ wives as an acknowledgement of what the experience of living withan incarcerated husband entails. We can think of this counsellor’s acknowledgement as resonating with how,as described in Chapter III, the therapist Muna let go of the standing language and became able to read theexperience of her client the instant she was forced to express what this client’s suffering feels like in front of hercolleagues. As stated in that regard, the standing language’s inclusion of the detainees’ wives in its register ofacknowledgement seems to rest on visuality and the verbal categorisation of victimhood. Consequentially, allwe can see is the wife of a detainee and the vocabulary available to represent her life as one revolving aroundpride and derivative suffering. Cavell states that the unhinging of words from the body engenders doubt in theworld. From this point of view, focusing on visuality and the standing language only when attempting tounderstand the experiences of detainees’ wives can be said to entail doubt as to what the suffering of thedetainees’ wives consists of or whether it actually exists. Acknowledgement of experiences of detainees’ wivesthus appears to entail a reconfiguration of visuality, words and corporeality. I return to this reconfigurationlater in this chapter.VII.III The Possibility of Knowing The Other During IncarcerationI continue by examining what the absence of the body from the captive conjugate means with regard to thepossibility of knowing each other. This paragraph sets out to understand what is engendered in the severanceof the detainee’s body from the ordinary. I therefore turn to a materialisation of what appears in the void ofphysical nearness, namely letters. With the aim of elucidating the meaning of a captive husband's bodilyabsence from the conjugate, I present excerpts from Maryam’s diary.In the name of God, what makes me the most happy ever is the visit to my husband. I feel so happyeven though I face hell in order to reach to the prison. Still, I am so happy because I am going to seethe person most precious to my heart. I keep smiling and I am happy for a long time after thevisit. When I meet my husband, I feel optimistic and I feel alive once again even if it is only forlimited time that I see him but it gives me energy, power, and happiness. It is at these times thatI really adore my children. I don’t yell at them, I don’t know how to express my feelings andmy happiness when I see my husband, I wish that he had a phone there so that I could talk tohim every day.Sometimes I look at his pictures and talk to him and at other times I take out his clothes and smellthem and remember every occasion he wore these clothes, then I wake up from my dreams andsay to myself, What are you doing, silly Maryam! But this is what makes me feel good andreleases some of my inner pain and buried feelings; this is what makes me happy and full of hope.When I smell him in his clothes I see his face smiling to me, and sometimes I hear him calling myname and say beautiful words to me. I feel him around me: maybe I am crazy and maybe I163


have lost my mind, but this is the way I feel toward my husband.The excerpt from Maryam’s dairy conveys how the visit to her imprisoned husband brings about feelings ofpower, energy and happiness, feelings that seep into her relationship with her children, with whom she isotherwise often angry and annoyed, not because they are misbehaving, but due to the weight of bearing theresponsibility of being both a mother and a father to them. In the autumn of 2008 her youngest son wasdiagnosed with severe autism. The diagnosis came after years of Maryam being embarrassed about her son,who had no manners, could still not speak at the age of five and who was interpreted by the community andher family as proof that she was incapable of raising a son. Visiting her husband gives Maryam the energy toface these challenges, but, as she writes, she wishes that her husband had a phone in the prison, so that theycould talk. Maryam’s writing indicates the impossibility of substituting ordinary practices of talking and beingwith each other with a prison visit, even though such visits mark a vast difference from an everyday.In the name of God, one day I was so upset and angry and I did not know what to do, so I just tooka piece of paper and a pen and started to write a letter to my husband; I sat down and beganto express my feelings in words. I did not know how to start and what to write, but then Ijust wrote what I felt and suddenly I found the paper full and that there was no more space to writein. Then I read the letter and I was surprised of the words I could write. I do not know how Iwrote them, I felt that my heart made the pen move and draw the letters on the paper.I felt so happy and released that I was able to write all this. Sometimes I hold my husband’s picturesand start to talk to him and tell him about everything. I tell him what makes me happy andwhat makes me angry, and I look for a long time at his picture, and after that I start to cry becauseI know that he does not hear me and he cannot respond to my calls and to my complaints. Ifind myself crying, just looking at his picture, no one around me feels with me. I feel that I amalone even though I have three kids surrounding me, but they do not know how I feel. I alwaysfeel that there is something missing. When I visit friends I feel good, but when I come backI feel sad again because I go by myself and come back by myself.The density of Maryam’s notes alludes to the possibility of expressing personal emotions, of finding a languagein which to let her husband know of her feelings. As Maryam writes, expressing feelings to her husband is forher otherwise actualised through speaking to a photograph of him. The limits of letting a photo know of herfeelings is, however, known to her, and her efforts in making herself known to him end with her crying. Howher husband’s absence from their ordinary togetherness is felt is described in her sensation that she can enterinto other relations situationally, yet she enters and leaves them alone, despite the fact that she is the mother ofthree children. The following excerpt from Maryam’s diary points toward the ineffability of her feelings andhow they are contained in her body. What also features prominently is her wish to know of the feelings andactivities of her husband:164


I woke up this morning and was not feeling well; I cannot talk to anyone, I feel so sad. I feel thatthere is someone crying inside me as if there is someone very sad living inside my body, and I reallydo not know the reason for this sadness and depression. Maybe loneliness or the pain of beingseparated from my husband, maybe the absence of my husband even though my kids are aroundme, but it feels lonely for me.I am still sad and upset, worried that I am not taking good care of my kids these days; I let them dowhatever they want to do and do not yell at any of them, I’m so ‘quiet’ today. I did all thehousework and I fed my kids without really being there: it felt as if I was out of my body andsomeone else was doing all these things for me! I was not in the mood for talking, and when thenight came the kids fell asleep and I sat down by myself alone and sad in this life. God, how do thedays pass when I am alone and sad? I could not find anyone to talk to, so I looked at theMoon and told it about my feelings and how my life is, and I asked the moon about my husbandand how he is doing and what is he doing right now? Is he sleeping? Is he thinking about meas I think of him now? Is he looking at you as I look at you right here? I cried until I fell asleep andprayed to God to help me, to protect me and my kids and my husband as well.With her questions to her husband being asked to the Moon, this last excerpt from Maryam’s diary can be castin the light of questions of knowing, of the possibility of knowing and making oneself known when the bodilyco-existence that the sharing of an everyday amounts to is severed by incarceration. It must be appreciated thatincarceration may produce doubt in the conjugal relationship itself, which brings me back to Cavell’s writingson skepticism and the relationship between the body and the soul, a dynamic tension that continues to be atopic of intense debate in anthropology (cf. Csordas 1993, 2008; Gammeltoft 2008).Skepticism and tragedy, writes Cavell, ‘conclude with the condition of human separation, with adiscovering that I am I; and the fact that the alternative to my acknowledgement of the other is not myignorance of him but my avoidance of him, call it my denial of him’ (Cavell, 1979: 408). Maryam does notdeny her husband – quite the contrary. In the above excerpt, she expresses a wish to acknowledge her husband.What dawns on her is that she is alone, and also that she is alone not because she is without others: she isalone only because she is part of a conjugal relationship – she forms part of a ‘one’, but incarceration hasbifurcated the conjugate by separating the spouses. The experience of being separate when she is in fact onewith her husband can be said to imply that she is forced not to acknowledge him. Unwillingly avoidingacknowledgement comes about because she cannot know him. How to claim that she does not know the manwho is the father of their four children? Cavell elaborates:The idea of the allegory of words is that human expressions, the human figure, to be grasped, mustbe read. To know another mind is to interpret a physiognomy, and the message of this region of theInvestigations is that this is not a matter of ‘mere knowing’. I have to read the physiognomy and seethe creature according to my reading, and treat it according to my seeing. The human body is thebest picture of the human soul – not, I feel like adding, primarily because it represents the soul but165


ecause it expresses it. The body is the field of expression of the soul. The body is of the soul; it isthe soul’s; a human soul has a body. (1979: 356).What happens during incarceration is, I would argue, that husband and wife may become unreadable to eachother. If we take our point of departure in Cavell’s reflections on the relationship between the body and thesoul we see that Maryam cannot read the expressions of her husband because his ‘body as the field ofexpression of the soul’ is absent This is concretely so because the bed is a void, and her spouse and her family asshe knew it has disappeared. Present in this vacuum are the disjointed lines of flight from her everyday to animaginary conversation through which the affect described above emerges as the subject that is Maryam.Posited between being a living figure and sensing the configuration incarceration has imposed on her, Maryamis in a situation that breeds skepticism in her. When there is no body to acknowledge, she cannot experienceher separateness from her husband outside a mode of profound doubt. It is important to emphasise that herfailure to acknowledge her imprisoned husband occurs unwillingly and that it is not due to any inherentdiscrepancy between her feelings and her ability to express them – quite to the contrary. Her diaries can bealigned with Cavell’s hesitancy towards the ‘private language argument’:So the fantasy of a private language, underlying the wish to deny the publicness of language, turnsout, so far to be a fantasy, or fear, either of inexpressiveness, in which I am not merely unknown, butin which I am powerless to make myself known; or one in which what I express is beyond mycontrol. (1979: 351)Here Cavell challenges the idea common not least in anthropology and the literature on witnessing thatcertain types of lived experience – in particular pain and suffering – are of such a nature that they defeatwords a priori (see for example Scarry 1987; Daniel 1997; Caruth 1995). Not so, argues Cavell, who suggeststhat the basic premise for a given lived experience to be known and acknowledged by others is the existence ofan adequate standing language – one which holds a place to know and acknowledge that experience (Cavell1979: 355). As discussed in Chapter III, the distinction between knowing and acknowledging is a key in sucha standing language. To know does not necessarily mean to acknowledge since the latter implies that one isengaging in a process of reading the other and making oneself read. Failure to acknowledge, in this view, doesnot rest on the fact that certain types of lived experience are per se inexpressible but on the fact the thestanding language available to describe them is inadequate. In other words, it is an incomplete standinglanguage, not an a priori inexpressibility, that render lived experiences such as pain and suffering inexpressible.As will have become apparent above, incarceration configures the possibility for both Maryam andher husband to acknowledge each other, though not because their experiences are ineffable, as one can tellfrom her questions concerning what he is doing now: is he sleeping, or is he thinking about her? Maryamexpresses her thoughts, yet her husband cannot know them. Adhering to Cavell’s analytical premise regardingthe body as the field of expression of the soul, the impossibility of acknowledging the other would be due tothe absence of a body through which at least some knowledge of the other can be gained.I would argue, though, that the reconfiguration of the possibility of Maryam and her husband166


acknowledging each other rests less on the fact that the body as the only medium of reading the other hasdisappeared. Rather, I suggest that the body’s disappearance causes a displacement of language so that, in theabsence of her husband from everyday talk and interaction, Maryam only has the standing language about thenational heroes available to her to know and make herself known to her husband. This indicates how theconjugal relationship, despite the husband and wife still being legally married to each other, causes a certainkind of separation between the spouses; one which is arguably unique to a conjugal relation: It occurs throughthe carving out of the couple’s bodies from the domestic that they shared. According to Cavell, acknowledgingthe other’s separateness from oneself is a condition of knowing, of being able to acknowledge the other. Theabove, however, make apparent how the separateness caused by incarceration makes it impossible to allowoneself to be read by the other, since the way in which husband and wife are supposed to read each other isdisplaced from habitual, everyday practices to dreamy conversations with the Moon or words in a diary whoseexpressions will never be read. Cavell states about everyday language ‘I do not picture my everyday knowledgeof others as confined but as exposed. It is exposed, I would like to say, not to possibilities but to actualities, tohistory. There is no possibility of human relationship that has not been enacted’ (Cavell 1979: 433).Imprisonment, however, confines knowledge and mutuality so that it cannot become exposed and enacted,thus fundamentally questioning the possibility of marriage during incarceration. As became apparent in bothMaryam’s and Yara’s accounts, a profound sense of sadness is engendered among those who are supposed tostay together with their husbands, when in fact all chances of being together have passed.VII.IV Knowing and DoubtI showed above how the separated conjugate caused by incarceration engenders in the detainees’ wives a senseof doubt towards the other, towards oneself and thus towards one’s relationship to the other as well. In thefollowing I ponder the relation of doubt to the larger issue of skepticism. A cue in the making of this link isthe enactment of everyday practices, including speaking together. Cavell asks ‘Could we say that the practicesare both an answer to skepticism because human relationships are enacted through them? And that theyproduce skepticism because you (over time) do not know the other but he looks like the one youknew?’ (1979: 433). The invocation of everyday practice as both a response to and a ground for skepticismmirrors the failed attempt by Maryam to make herself known by talking to her husband’s photograph. Inorder to investigate how skepticism becomes part of the configuration of affect caused by incarceration, Ianalyse excerpts from the correspondence between Aisha and her detained husband. The letters were writtenat the time he was sentenced to life imprisonment: 89My soul Imm Nour: 90I didn’t care about the sentence of this occupation court, I don’t believe in it, I only believe in thesentence of God, I hope you share this feeling with me. The sentence was broadcast on TV and theradio, and I ask God for forgiveness because I asked you to focus on the media, and I forgot that89 The dates given in this section of the chapter are fictional, in order to protect the identity of my interlocutors.90 Aisha’s husband calls her Imm Nour because she is the mother [Imm] of their son Nour. The use of teknonymsis widely practiced all over the Levant, both in public and more personally.167


God is above all, and he is the only one who can help. I am glad that the media are writing aboutme, but there are a lot of detainees here that no one cares to write about.Aisha, the love of my life, my heart, and my soul, I love you forever, you are the most beautifulwoman in the world, you are the greatest wife, I miss seeing you and hearing your voice, I miss yoursmile. I love you from the bottom of my heart, I actually love life because of you, and I thank Godeveryday because he created you, you are my fortune and what else can I say about you, you are theair I breathe, and the light I see, and the hope that keeps me going, and never give up. By the way,you were not right when you said that I write better than you, I am jealous of poets because theycan express exactly what they feel, and then they feel better, and I cannot write what I feel, my penis not helping me. My pen, you have to help me because now I have no one else but you, so help meat least to write what I feel for my beautiful wife. And I do not blame you my pen, I do not,because I know that you also will be speechless when you see her, or think about her, she isextremely beautiful, with the kind heart that she has, she is a great mother and woman, she has allthe beautiful things in this world, she is a flower, she is the moon in the sky.I love you a lot my wife, you are one in a million.In the end, I will sing you a song by Imm Kulthoum 91 in response to your last song;I will tell you about love, and about those who feel (love) like me.I cannot sleep at night because I think about you,I cannot express what I feel inside,No love words are enough to express what I feel towards youI am happy with you, and the happiest because I am with you now.God you are the greatest, and I believe that Mohammed is our prophet.A cultured man and a skilled writer, Aisha’s husband conveys through his writing the fact that, during hisincarceration, he and Aisha have found a way to communicate with each other through the only means ofconnection they have: letters. The first paragraph of his letter draws on the part of the standing language thatrevolves around the affects of heroism and resistance through its evocations of the occupation, the media andthe illegitimacy of his sentence. Aside from being part of the Palestinian meta-narrative, these issues – theprison, securitisation procedures and religion – are something that both he and Aisha have access to and cantherefore share their experiences of. In the second paragraph, his letter changes its tone to one of personalemotion. It is worth noting that his words in this paragraph are not hinged upon a concrete, personal featureof Aisha , but upon her as a generic, ideal woman. This part of the letter also addresses how Aisha’s husbanddoes not feel at home with the words he has available to him to reflect upon the distance between the two of91 Imm Kulthoum was an Egyptian singer who was at the height of her career in the 1950s and 1960s yet is stillwidely recognised as the one of the most esteemed singer-songwriters in the Middle East (Massad 2003). Her songs areconsidered by the Palestinians to express their fate of exile and how they stand tall throughout the Israeli occupation (ibid.).168


them and how the concrete tool in his hands is of no help in expressing his feelings toward Aisha. Conversely,the below excerpt from a later letter conveys an acknowledgement of their relationship to each other: howthey are being part of each other yet still separate from one another, thus fully acknowledging each other.You are a part of me, no; actually you are all of me, not just a part. Maybe I am not being fair when Irelate you to me, and to be clearer, I am part of you, not the opposite, and this part can be all, I loveyou a lot, and you are my love in all languages. The only thing I need after praying to God is to bewith you, to be close to you forever.This letter can be read as proof that it is possible to acknowledge each other despite not sharing an everydaytogether. Alluding to the unsettledness of this point, however, are Aisha’s husband’s last words, which express awish to be close to his wife. I take his wish for her closeness as a wish to be together in the realm of the actual.The desire to be close in the everyday shows too in the following letter from Aisha to her husband :I await each visit for you, visiting you without actually visiting you; I try to prove my love to youand how much I miss you by letters that you can translate in your or in our own way, you do notleave any word that can explain your unlimited and your warm love to me without telling me it. Iawait your letters, I read them while we drink our noonday coffee together. Oh my love, how muchI long for you, and how much I miss to experience with you the small details of life be it in bad orgood circumstances, I am always sure that I have chosen the right choice (you), you are a great thingfor me, I thank God each day for giving me you, the presence of you in my life is what makes mecontinue and makes me stronger, and more patient. You are here with us, even if you are not here,sharing every moment with us, at home, and in school, we have the most beautiful kids, Zeinab andNour, so let us pray for them to have good luck and to be good persons. They are a piece of you,they look like you in everything and in their social behaviour too, they love the family, and thehouse, they are making us, me and you, very proud. How much I love them. They are just two kidsbut they are special in kind and in behaviour.In parallel with a desire to be close on an everyday basis, Aisha’s letter expresses the fact that she feels herhusband to be present in the way in which she and their children enact their everyday. Aisha also addresseshow her husband’s written words convey his feelings for her without him speaking them to her as he wouldhave, were he not detained. The correspondence between Aisha and her husband thus contests Cavell’scontention of the body as the (sole) field of expression of the soul and as the only means through which onecan acknowledge the other. By way of their letters, Aisha and her husband appear to be engaging in a processof reading of each other. This becomes possible through their shared language, which is evoked in the letter’sfirst line. Evidently, this possibility does not fill in Aisha’s longing for her husband to be an actual part of hereveryday. In this sense, the letter reflects the ordinary in its twin meaning as what engenders skepticism and aswhose practices make up an attempt to counter skepticism. Below, Aisha describes her love and feeling ofconnectedness to her husband. As I shall discuss in Chapter VIII, these connections are at their most tangible169


and affectively sensed in her everyday in the presence of their two children.With all my respect, my love and my faithfulness toward my husband.I love that everything connects us, I love our two kids for whom I will give my life the same as yougave your life and your freedom for us and for the others, oh how lovely you are my husband, mylover and the father of my kids all in one. I own the world because my destiny is related to you.The visit finished and I cannot feel my legs, or the floor I am walking on, I want to fly, I am reallyfeeling that way, in spite of the sad feelings I feel because the visit ended quickly. When I came backto Dar Noura everyone noticed the change, I was feeling comfortable, happy and positive, thiscould only be because your face is stuck on my face as a mirror now, it can only be because you arethe only one who has been in my heart for millions of years.I love you Ahmad. And I wish that I were as good a writer as a true writer. Because my pen is nothelping me to tell you what I really want to tell you, and it cannot translate my love to you, you aregreat. My love for him has no limits.Like Maryam, Aisha describes her emotions in the wake of her first visit to her husband in four years asevoking feelings of happiness and well-being. The letter's affective language is also permeated with nationalpolitics. Mirroring her husband’s letters to her, in this letter Aisha writes within the vocabulary of the standinglanguage by way of referring to his sacrifice. Almost a crude instantiation of the previously describedgendering of the nationalist discourse, Aisha casts herself as having sacrificed too in a reflection of her husbandwithout stating what her sacrifice is or will be. Whereas in this letter the elaborate language of sacrifice andaffection appears to gloss over the severity of being apart, Aisha’s husband expresses feelings and circumstancesthat are not easily lived with in this below letter, which also featured in Chapter V:My love Imm Nour,I have the feeling that the way we visit each other will change, or that this visit is going to be thelast, and I cannot hide that this will be difficult for me. I used to talk to you without barriers, I gotused to your visits without you actually visiting me because your letters made me feel happy, and Iwas feeling that you visited me when I got a letter from you.How will I feel when I will move far into the desert and have no connections with you?,Iit is goingto be a black desert, and how could I feel my heart beat when I am not to read your words?I need you, my wife, because you are in my mind, my soul, and my heart. If I stop thinking aboutyou, my soul takes me to you, and if I do this, my heart makes me suffer because I miss you a lot,170


and then I do not sleep that night.This letter is saturated by the fear of losing the feeling of being part of each other, despite not sharing aneveryday together. As I stated in Chapter V, the letter points towards Ahmad’s transfer to a high securityprison, which will most likely mean even less contact between himself and his relatives. The letter conveys howthis forthcoming change presents itself as a tactile experience for Aisha’s husband. The sentence ‘how could Ifeel my heart beat when I am not to read your words’ testifies to the importance of even written language as ameans of being read and reading the other. Ahmad’s writing refers to the hinging of words in the human body.The letter thus conveys the idea that the cut of the severed conjugate elicits lettered conjugality: Aisha and herhusband have found a way to communicate in a manner that entails mutual acknowledgement. This mode ofcommunication does not replace their desire to be together in the everyday, but it can be conceived of as adifferentiation of the affective line that is the duration of their relationship.In the following letter, which Ahmad wrote shortly after he was handed his final sentence, thisaffective configuration is nonetheless severed too. As he writes, he feels that his sentence will mean a severingof even their letters to each other. Below, Ahmad describes his feelings at having been sentenced:My soul Imm Nour,I just came back from the court, It finished early today at 4 o’clock, I came back to find all thedetainees waiting for me, after knowing my sentence from Israeli TV. The court today was full ofjournalists, they were asking me about my feelings, and whether I regret what I did or not. Ianswered that I do not regret anything and that I am proud of what I did. An Arabic translator,around fifty years old, was sitting beside me, and she was surprised when she heard the sentence andthe crime I did 92 …. And the sentence was twenty years for each crime. She was surprised that I wascalm and that I did not seem worried, I was feeling normal and safe, because I know that God is theonly one who can sentence me, and I do not believe in their court. I know God is there, and he willgive us our freedom soon.I 93 didn’t care about the sentence of this occupation court. I don’t believe in it, I only believe inGod’s sentence, so I hope you share this feeling with me. The sentence was presented on the TV andon the radio, and I ask God for forgiveness because I asked you to focus on the media. I forgot thatGod is above all, and he is the only one who can help. I am glad that the media writes about me, butstill there are a lot of detainees here who no one cares about.The language of the previous two letters is different from the former ones. There is no evocation of bittersweetfeelings of longing and connectedness, only comments on the sentence. The sentencing of Aisha’s husband has92 I have removed the sentences giving the details of Aisha’s husband’s activities out of concern for her anonymity.As with the other sentences mentioned during the thesis the stated length is only in the area of the precise sentence handeddown to the women’s men. This is done in order to conceal the men’s identity.significance.93 The last part of this letter is the one I opened this section of the chapter with. I am repeating it here due to its171


caused the language of Aisha and Ahmad to be displaced by the standing language. This features in the letter’scontinuous references to the occupation, the media, the Palestinian cause of the detainees, and to God as theonly legitimate judge of Ahmad’s violent acts. How Ahmad expresses his reaction to the sentence is reflectedin what Aisha wrote in two entries of her diary just before and after Ahmad was sentenced. Most notably,Aisha also writes in a language that is distinct from the mutual language of affection that the two of themshare together:Ahmad has sentenced them, it was not the other way around, because he was so strong and brave,and he was the lord of the court. We won’t let the occupation break us, they are trying but they willnever succeed, we are going to have our victory by our brave people. The judge didn’t announce thesentence, and they postponed it.On 07-April-2008 we knew the sentence, but we still have hope.The correspondence between Aisha and her incarcerated husband resonates with Yara’s story that opened thischapter. When Yara was younger, she did not feel the absence or longed for her husband. She was committedto fighting a political cause in different ways, ways that were also different from her husband’s political project.The intensity and vitality of Yara’s story is reflected in both Aisha’s and her husband’s letters. What cannot beoverlooked, though, in either of these cases is the occurrence of something that I hesitate even to call a change:it is expressed as doubt. In Yara’s account, it is a doubt whether she can stand it any longer. And, in Aisha’shusband’s letter it comes forth as having an unconfirmed feeling that the visits will be severed due to hissentence. The change of tone in both Aisha’s letter and her diary mirrors that of her husband and is devoid ofanything but political rhetoric. However, the doubt of what the future will bring in terms of their possibilitiesfor continuing to be part of each other without being together was present in Aisha in her entire being in theworld upon hearing the sentence, as described in Chapter V.On the basis of the change of vocabulary in the letters, and of Aisha’s altered presence towardsherself and her female social relations, I suggest that we think about the moment of the sentence as whatengendered a further cut in Aisha relationship with her husband. Whereas in their case incarceration appearedto elicit lettered conjugality, the cut that resulted from the sentencing of Ahmad elicited an unknowingrelation between them, based on the realisation that their hope of denouncing skepticism through a reunionin everyday life will never be actualised. Their letters convey this realisation through the change in how Aishaand Ahmad express themselves. From writing in a personal register, Aisha and her husband now employ avernacular of nationalist affect that draws on the standing language. The change in their writings to each othercan be thought of as displacement in language. By employing a nationalistic language that denies thelegitimacy of the sentence, Aisha and Ahmad displace their experience of skepticism in their relationship to awilled expression of skepticism towards the legitimacy of the sentencing body, the Israeli Military Court.Through this change of language, they do not allow skepticism into their language to each other, only to thecommon enemy.From the description of Aisha and how the sentence turned her into an embodiment of doubt172


despite her public face of boundless strength, the entanglement of politics and affect shows its face again.Maryam’s diaries and Aisha’s diaries and conjugal correspondence speak of how incarceration engendersdifferent cuts in the conjugal relationship. For Aisha and Ahmad, at first this cut elicited romance and a drivetowards expressing their love for each other by all means possible during Ahmad’s incarceration, at least untilhis sentence made concrete the fact that physical presence and the sharing of days would not become a part oftheir conjugal life. This second cut engendered what I termed an unknowing relation that is permeated withskepticism. The way in which they disavow the sentence is an answer to the skepticism that has entered theirrelationship.The void occurring with the severed conjugate in Maryam, Yara and Aisha’s cases appears to elicitobjectified images of the other. Particularly in the case of Aisha, the detainee and his wife were configured asfigures who can only know each other as the national subjects of ‘the detainee’ and ‘the detainees’ wife’. This isbecause the everyday talk and habitual practices belonging to an ordinary life are out of reach for the captiveconjugate, who therefore alters expression from employing an intimate language to using the standinglanguage. How the invocation of each other through a vocabulary of national affect does not replace sharingan everyday showed clearly in Yara’s account. To Yara, having a hero husband in prison does not make up forher cold bed. In other words, the possibility for detainees and their wives to engage in the ‘willing repetition ofdays until their true minds become unreadable to each other’ is reconfigured by incarceration. That thisreconfiguration alters conjugal readability was made apparent by Maryam in the way she tried to elicit herhusband by imagining his face and smelling his clothes while talking to the moon.Maryam’s case invites a discussion of Strathern’s notion of obviation. Obviation refers to whatappears when a relation is cut. To Strathern a cut refers to a change in the relation, a change that occurs withevery new configuration of a cut (Strathern 2004: 81). In the cut of the severed conjugate, I have argued,appears to be a relation permeated by doubt to the extent that we can talk about skepticism. Maryamattempted to replace this skeptical relation of not knowing a husband – the relation to him and thus therelation to oneself – with the Moon in an endeavour to denounce her feeling of skepticism.It thus shows that the absence of an incarcerated husband both configures a relation as a relationimbued with doubt and it allows for a replacement of the void left by a husband’s absence. The wives ingeneral, and most clearly in the conjugate of Aisha and Ahmad, engage in practices to elicit the other in his orher absence. It is the simultaneous cut and what the cut elicits that allows me to argue that the incarceration ofa spouse implies a change in the conjugal relation. In this sense, incarceration works differently upon thecaptive conjugate than was the case with kin relations, which the previous chapter argued become accentuatedrather than altered by detention. The captive conjugate may be said to work as an inverse reflection of thecontraction of the women’s duration I argued to be a result of incarceration with regard to the women’srelationship to their affinal and consanguinal kin. In the case of the captive conjugate it seems that theopposite happens, namely a dilation of the duration of a conjugal relation. Whereas the contraction ofduration rest on how the whole of obligations that make up duration seemed to be actualised in terms of kinrelationships the opposite occurs in terms of the conjugate: Here, it is only scattered aspects of virtualconjugality that are actualised, namely letters, the smell of a spouse’ clothes and a condensed physical copresencethat after all do take place during the prison visit. In this sense the captive conjugate can be depicted173


as emblematic of the top of Bergson’ cone, the space in which duration is at its least actualised and mostdilated state (Deleuze 1988: 59). This allows me to state that the captive conjugate is voided by incarceration.Against this background, how the captive conjugate is configured and lived is not encompassed inthe premise of umūd, according to which incarceration and the severance it entails does not mean anythingother than elicitation of a relationship permeated with honour. Intrinsic to umūd is, as already noted, thefact that any suffering occurring as part of the struggle is to be endured because the suffering will at some pointresult in a Palestinian state. Immanent in the notion of umūd is therefore a premise of suffering as temporarywhich, as already noted, resonates with the temporal premise inherent in global psychological discourse,namely that suffering, or trauma, is temporary and is followed by a redemptive aftermath. Below I examinethis twin premise against the background of ethnographic cases of a detained husband’s release.VII.V ReleaseTwo of my interlocutors saw their husbands released during my fieldwork. Both men were from Dar Nūra, yetneither of them had participated in the activities of resistance that had seen both Amina and Aisha’s husbandsdetained. The two men belonged to Fata , as do most of the detainees released in the negotiations with Israel.This is explained by the fact that Fata is perceived by Israel and the international community as a so-calledmoderate party that helped secure the Oslo agreements on the part of the Palestinians and that recognises theIsraeli state. One of these men’s wives is Fatemeh, who figured in Chapter V in the description of her visit toher husband in prison. I was not in the occupied territory at the time of her husband’s release, yet upon myreturn a few months later I visited a glowing Fatemeh busy denying rumours that she was pregnant because shehad put on weight after her husband’s return. ‘Do I look fat’, she asked cheekily? About the return of herhusband, Fatemeh said:Now I am having fun in the house, there’s someone I can speak to, just the feeling that I am alonewas killing me, now there is the three of us, we sit together, I make tea and coffee now, but before, Ididn’t do anything, I just drank water, but now he is with me, I used to play on the computer thewhole day, or I sleep, but now I don’t have to.As a reflection of Maryam’s and Amina’s accounts of what is missing with the absence of their husbands,Fatemeh emphasises details of the everyday that no one would give a thought to had they not experienced thevoid appearing in the absence of these details. Fatemeh notes that being alone was killing her. Whereas thismay be an exaggeration, I thought of her in terms of death on our first encounters – beautiful, polite andcarefully dressed, yet without a hint of life in her eyes. Explaining the effects of his detention, she stated:I told you before that distance kills love, and I also told him that he was in the prison for sevenyears, I had been talking to him on phone for three years, and for four years we were sending lettersto each other, and sometimes I was sending pictures, I mean, months passed without me thinking174


about him because I got used to the situation, but after he came out, I had the same feeling, I mean,I did not feel anything special for him, but after we have lived together, the feelings are coming backto me, I now feel that I am in love with him.Recalling how, on earlier occasions, Fatemeh spoke about her husband as someone she hardly knew or caredabout, her choice of words that feelings are coming back is striking, although here she contends that she didnot feel anything particular for him before he was detained, nor released. In their case romance certainly didnot appear in the temporary cut of their relationship – quite the contrary. Earlier, Fatemeh had showed methe letters from her husband while saying that she could not be asked to write back. On that occasion, whichoccurred half a year before she visited him, she had not written to him for one year. In the following extract,she points out how his return implied a change that was no less great for her husband:[When he returned] I was happy; I felt that the most important thing in the house had come backto us and he also, when he saw the house, he was surprised, he told me there is something changedhere but he didn’t know what was it was, he entered the bedroom, and he turned around the house,but he didn’t know, so I asked him, Hussein where is the balcony? Then he knew. And during histwo first days in the house he couldn’t sleep, he used to wake up in the middle of the night andstarted to walk around; he didn’t believe what I’d done in the house.In parallel with Fatemeh’s emphasis on the change in her daily routines, her husband’s return to their homeindicates how the realm of the domestic alters not only with absence, but also with return. And, even thoughit is formally a return of the same person, the home to which he returns is altered. The idea of a detainee asremaining the same man throughout his detention can be questioned by focusing on the release of Weaam’shusband.When Weeam and her children were certain about his release, preparations for the celebrationsbegan, of which the visual display of his release was the most spectacular. On top of the house, waving in thespring breeze, was the yellow flag of Fata among Palestinian flags of various sizes. A banner of Abu Amr(Yasser Arafat) three times the size of an adult man hung down the side of the house, leaving no one in doubtabout his affiliation. Weeam’s youngest boy saw us coming up the street from the rooftop, where he stood andyelled at his mother that we were here. In the street, car horns marked their recognition that one of thevillage’s captives had been released. When we knocked on the door, Weeam’s girls opened it with a happysmile. Weaam was sitting in the sofa wearing nice, decent clothes, smiling stiffly. Two women from the village,one of them an aunt on his deceased mother’s side, were sitting on a couch. Repeatedly they asked Weeam’syoungest boy if he was not happy? He shrugged and said ‘Yeah, I never had a father’, at which the womengasped. They told him to pray out of happiness and gratitude, which he did not want to do. He ran out of thehouse laughing. Weaam hurried on to the floor unfolding her prayer mat and started praying in the middle ofthe living room. The ladies left the house soon after. Her husband was nowhere in sight. To this day I have notmet him: he is always sleeping, asking for silence since he cannot sleep at night.Around six months later, on the day before everyone expected the breaking of the fast, I went to175


Weaam’s house, where she and the girls were preparing cake for al-Eid. Weeam looked tired and said thatthings were not good, rolling the dough and ensuring that her eldest daughter only took the prettiest cakeswith her to the electric oven. Looking down at her busy hands, she said in a low voice ‘ahsan kaan fi sijjin’ (itwas better when he was in prison). On my enquiry a few weeks earlier, she had told me about how people inthe village, intruders or neighbours, had stopped inquisitively asking her about her whereabouts. She hadfinally come out of their scrutinising gaze, and things appeared to have returned to how they were before hehad been imprisoned. At least partially: her husband asked his former employer, the police station in theneighbouring town, if they had a job for him now, ten months after his release. They did not have any work forhim, and no opportunities were in sight. He was still suffering from problems with his teeth and his jaw, andWeeam often said ‘ya maskiin’ (poor thing) about him. Weeam’s four energetic children aged seven to fifteennodded indiscernibly at their mother’s account. The oldest daughter, a smart girl with good exam results, hadgrown into an extraordinarily thin teenager over the two years I had known her. This time she kept flashingbig smiles that never reached her eyes and which she could not sustain every time I glanced at her over thetable full of cake for al-Eid. The case of the release of Weeam’s husband conveys a picture that is crudelydifferent from that of life for Fatemeh and her husband after his release. To Weeam, her husband’s releasealtered her relationship with the immediate community around her because her husband had returned to theirhome and to the marriage as a container of obligation and desire. The man who returned was nonethelessdifferent from the man who had been incarcerated seven years earlier. And even a few months of his releasedid not seem to bring about improved intimacy between him and his wife. The release of Weeam’s husbandthus show how the premise of temporary suffering implied in umūd does not apply in the case ofincarceration. The captive conjugate is profoundly altered by detention. In this sense, the idea of a time ofredemption or an aftermath can be questioned in the case of detention in Israel. Against this backdrop, Iconclude by returning to a question posed earlier: what becomes of a conjugal relationship in the face ofincarceration?VII.VI Uncanny knowingThe diverse constellations of the captive conjugate described here show that it is one aspect of ‘marriage as thewilling repetition of days’ in particular that stands out as significant. Sharing and repeating the small gesturesof the everyday such as preparing a meal for a husband or listening to a wife after a tiring day is precisely whatbecomes impossible under the circumstances of incarceration. The conjugal cut brought about byimprisonment renders impossible the sharing the everyday. The banality of this observation is nuanced whenconsidering what the severance of everyday physical togetherness elicits. The excerpts and instances from thewomen’s lives during and after their husbands’ absence convey these implications, of which the mostsignificant is the difficulty if not impossibility of knowing the other, of knowing one’s spouse.I analysed these difficulties through Cavell’s assumption of the body as the expression of the soul,implying that the absence of the body makes it impossible to read the other’s mind and to acknowledge oneanother. This analytical premise has nonetheless been contested, exemplified by Maryam’s evocation of herhusband through smelling his clothes and speaking to him, replacing everyday conversation with her husbandby speaking to the Moon. In this sense, my ethnography urges me to question whether the absence of a body176


makes it impossible to acknowledge and read one another, though my data most certainly suggest thatincarceration alters the possibility of acknowledging and reading one another. This showed, for instance, inthe case of Weeam’s husband, who constantly phoned her from the prison in order to check up on herbehaviour, as described in Chapter IV. The picture is, however, more nuanced: Aisha and her husband appearto be able to sustain knowledge about each other through their letters of devotion, indicating an urge tocombat the working of incarceration upon their relationship. Their struggle may also be seen as their personalfight against the occupation whose legitimacy they refuse to acknowledge. To complicate my analysis evenfurther, I introduce one last letter from Aisha to her husband:14-3-2008Your case file has been closed now, we do not believe in this court, nor in the occupation; itsexistence is not legal, and everything the occupation does is rejected by the Palestinians, and alsothey [the Israelis] do not even have the right to be in Palestine.I know how things are going now. I know also how strong you are, and how patient you are. Younever give up. Each one of us will support the other, you have given me all the positive parts of mypersonality, and all that came after I knew you as a lover and as a husband. I know how you will bethinking after this sentence, we are two close lovers, despite the occupation and the checkpointsand the suffering.Its forbidden for me to see you, but my eyes go to you with my kids. I leave you to go to you, andwhen I am busy away from you I will be thinking about you; your picture is always here with me, itis all over me. I am also a detainee in a difficult prison which is being far from you, and also it is mylove to you. There you are standing as a holy tree, we do not care what the sentence will be, nor thetheatre of the court itself because you are in my heart and my mind always, despite the distance andthe walls that separate us. And we will stay together forever, my love.You will stay with us always despite your distance, we refer to you and we share with you the makingof decisions, so do not be surprised if I send you a lot of questions from our children, it is just tomake them feel the importance of your role in our life.Also you are worried about Nour, as you told me, you are worried that he does not understand whatfather means, do not worry, my love, he is on the right track, because he understands what therelationship between children and their father is and he is feeling jealous of the children that havetheir father at home. He also feels sad when a detainee gets out of the prison and comes back to hischildren but you are still in there. Does that not that show that he realises what father means?I will be a mother and a social specialist or psychologist for them or whatever they need.I love you all.177


The difference in the tone of this letter from her writings before her husband’s case was decided is striking. Iargued earlier that their disavowal of the occupation could be seen as a fight against skepticism that, despitetheir efforts, seems to have seeped into their relationship. Nowhere is this skepticism clearer than in the aboveletter, which reads like a reassurance that the incarceration of Ahmad has not meant anything for theirrelationship as a conjugate and as a family. Her final question, ‘Does this not show that he is realizing whatfather means?’ is nonetheless emblematic of Aisha’s doubt that her son, who has never lived with his father,will know the meaning of the term. Aisha knows that no amount of cultivating fatherly love can make up forthis lack of repetition of days. The disappearance of that possibility with incarceration is what reconfigures thelines of affect circulating in and around the captive conjugate, resulting in the voiding of a marriage. The onlyfather in place is the figure who is neither part of everyday life nor among the dead.VII. VII ConclusionIn conclusion, a question begs consideration: what does the temporal span of a husband’s or a father’s absencemean for the possibility of knowing each other? In Aisha’s case, she has been through the possibilities ofabsence that incarceration in an Israeli prison allow for. First is the undecided or administrative detention,when the court case is running and nothing has been settled as yet. This was the case until Ahmad’s case filewas closed and he was given his sentence shortly thereafter. Knowing the sentence is the circumstance of allthe women in this study, save for Yara, whose husband is such a politically intricate subject that even thoughhe has been handed a multi-year sentence, this keeps being extended through shorter intervals of isolation.The difference between the situation of other detainee’s wives and Aisha’s case, and with her Fardoz, whosehusband is serving a sentence of a hundred years, is a matter of duration. For Aisha and Fardoz, theirhusbands’ sentences outlive the women. The perspectives for a future ‘repetition of the everyday’ havedisappeared. Yet the fact that he still exists, somewhere, is a reminder of the possibility of that future, apossibility that is constantly emphasised due to negotiations about the detainees between the Palestinians andIsrael. As stated earlier, however, this difference in the duration of a sentence does not necessarily determinehow the lives of wives are configured. What matters to my interlocutors is that they are without theirhusbands for a good part, if not all of their adult lives, when their children grow up and the household isconsolidated. When their husbands are released, all the women will be between fifty and sixty years old, andYara will be seventy. It is in other words the entirety of an everyday with an orientation towards building ahome and a family that evaporates with incarceration. Having know these prospects and having lived throughyears of them already is what engenders the detainee’s wives’ skepticism towards the entire world. In anattempt to characterise skepticism in epistemology, Cavell writes:At some early point in epistemological investigations, the world normally present to us (the worldin whose existence, as it is typically put, we ‘believe’) is brought into question and vanishes,whereupon all connection with a world is found to hang upon what can be said to be ‘present to thesenses; and that turns out, shockingly, not to be the world. It is at this point that the doubter findshimself cast into skepticism, turning the existence of the external world into a problem. (Cavell178


1988: 173)Skepticism as what fundamentally questions the connection between the world and what it ‘is found to hangupon’ elucidates what incarceration engenders for the relationships around the incarcerated. Skepticismoccurs through the reconfiguration of the possibility to read one another’s mind, which may cause the spousesto become unreadable to each other. In the light of Cavell’s definition of marriage as the willing repetition ofdays until our true minds become unreadable to each other, the only reminder of a marriage left for the captiveconjugate is the will to take up the repetition of days and the hope that this can be executed.Another word that can capture how what was once known and now appears to be less known orunknown is ‘uncanny’. This chapter has looked at how the captive conjugate becomes uncanny because thoseinvolved in the relation have become unknown to one another. The incinerating power of skepticism isrevealed through how it does not dissolve upon the release of the incarcerated and his return to the home, hiswife and their children. Less than being empty the years’ passing imply changes among the two parts of thecaptive conjugate, changes that none of the parties could have imagined, precisely due to the configuredpossibility of knowing each other during incarceration. Whereas Fatemeh was happy upon the return of herhusband, she described their relationship unsentimentally as something new, almost unrelated to how theylived together before. Clear from her account was also her husband’s attempt to make himself familiar withthe home that was once his, but which had changed entirely in his absence. The sticky uncanniness of relationsduring and after incarceration is carved out in the case of Weeam’s husband: since he sleeps most of the time,every member of the household adjusts their whereabouts so as not to disturb him, yet he only rarely appearsamong them. Her statement that it was better when he was in prison is an allusion to the absence of an idealreturn: the known husband returning to the same home as that from which he disappeared. However, thechanges are slight and appear solely on the background of how one is thought to know the home, oneself andrelations before. It is in this sense that the captive conjugate is configured as uncanny, thereby allowingskepticism into the conjugal relation.The configured possibility of acknowledging and reading one another is what renders the captiveconjugate an altered rather than an accentuated relationship when seen against the backdrop of Palestinianunderstandings of kinship and marriage. In contrast to the contracted state of duration that is emblematic ofthe closing in of the affinal kin relations surrounding the detainees wives, the captive conjugate encapsulates adilated state of duration in which only a few aspects of the duration of a conjugal relation is actualised.Weeam’s son’s reply to the officious aunts, that he did not care whether his father had been released or not,confirmed the doubts expressed in Aisha’s letter to her husband: her son does not know the feeling of having afather because they have not shared their everyday lives together. In this sense the notion of a father has beendilated too.This chapter’s analysis questions the analytical continuum of umūd on the one hand, according towhich physical presence does not alter relations, and Cavell’s assumption on the other hand that the body isthe field of expression of the soul, its absence altering relations fundamentally. My analysis has suggested thatthe language of umūd, the standing language, may be elicited as a substitute in lieu of the displaced languageof intimacy between spouses. The ethnography nonetheless suggested that the premise of umūd cannot179


eplace that what is displaced, namely the physical presence of the husband and the sharing of an everyday.umūd, however, does appear as a way of denouncing the skepticism that is elicited in the cut of the conjugateby way of being a language in which condemnation of the occupation can be expressed, thereby displacingrelational skepticism.Concerning the body as the field of expression of the soul, my analysis seems to complicate Cavell’spremise. The examples the women gave showed how conjugality was reconfigured in the face of incarceration.It seems that such configuration comprises not only cases in which the spouses become unreadable to eachother due to the absence of a habitual everyday, the void of the husband’s physical presence and the attendantdisappearance of an intimate language. In addition, configuration seems to actualise captive conjugates aslettered conjugality as the cases of Aisha and Ahmad showed. In this sense, it shows that marriage in the faceof incarceration is possible, even if it is a volatile possibility over which the threat of skepticism looms large.This conclusion addresses the triade of acknowledgement proposed earlier in the chapter. In boththe Palestinian meta-narrative evolving around umūd and the standing language, vision is emphasised as away in which to know and acknowledge suffering and forms of life. I argued in Chapter III that this mode ofknowing implied aspect blindness that allowed only affliction that met particular proxies of suffering, namelyevent, immediacy, and secondarily, relation, to come into view. In the standing language, the visual and wordstogether actualise a register of acknowledgement in which the suffering endured by the captive conjugatedisappears due to how it fails to meet the criteria for knowing suffering. Cavell, on the other hand, presumesthat knowledge and acknowledgement of the other can only take place if the body as the field of expression ofthe soul is in place. I propose a tilt of interpretation with regard to Cavell’s analytical premise. I have describedhow a fundamental premise of Cavell’s notion of language is how language that becomes unhinged from thebody engenders skepticism. Thus, if words stay connected with the body, acknowledgement is possible, even, Iargue, the instant a body is actually missing. Das has formulated this hinging as ‘allowing the other to happento me’ (Das 1998: 192).On this basis, I suggest that the possibility of a captive conjugate can be actualised by the spousesletting the other happen to one another in the myriad of ways that, as already shown, it can take place duringincarceration. Second, it seems that this may also be a way of acknowledging what is implied by incarcerationfor the conjugate at a collective level. Why this form of acknowledgement seems to be denied in the part ofthe standing language constituted by the Palestinian meta-narrative is, I argue, because if what is endured, notonly by the detainee but by the detainee and his wife in relation to one another, is allowed to happen to thePalestinian collective, this would engender skepticism concerning the premise of umūd itself: allowing thecaptive conjugate to happen to the Palestinian collective would entail a realisation that not everything can beendured. This conclusion sheds light on the dynamics which obscure the effects of incarceration on theconjugate by eliciting the Palestinian family: while, as shown in the preceding chapter, the family is configuredas an accentuation of Palestinian notions of kinship, the conjugate, it appears, is configured as dilated andaltered in a manner that engenders skepticism concerning the Palestinian struggle for statehood.180


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Chapter VIIIMotherhood as a Safe Place: The Gendering of an Ordinary‘It is a loss, my children lost the word ‘dad’; to me it is the loss itself, losing him’.This is how Nadia expressed the loss of her first husband. She was the only one among the detainees’ wiveswho was also the widow of a šahīd (a martyr). Expanding on how the loss of her husband worked itself intoher relationships, she emphasised how his death had been an invitation for people to intrude into her life,instantiating how her kin closed in on her upon her husband’s decease. The aspect of Nadia’s life that incitedintrusion was whether or not she should remarry by becoming the wife of her late husband’s brother. At firstshe did not want to at all, but after a while she agreed. ‘Now I am married, but not in practice… But, whenpeople intrude, there is protection’. Resonating with the evocation of the captive conjugate as a voided form inthe last chapter, Nadia reveals that her marriage and cannot be enacted in practice. Her marriage nonethelessfunctions as a shield against intruders, which at least gives her a sense of privacy. Perhaps it even allows her thesafe place that was evoked by the psychotherapists in Chapter III as a therapeutic aim of their interventions.What fills the void from both her deceased and her incarcerated husbands, however, is seen by Nadia as morethan a place of comfort ‘It’s on the inside; there’s an empty space, a hole in me’.Nadia’s evocation of loss as emptiness concerns the loss of her deceased husband. However, payingattention to how she refers to ‘my children lost the word “dad”’ allows me to ponder this loss as more thanbereavement. Nadia’s deceased husband is the father of her three oldest children. The father of her last child isher deceased husband’s brother, whom Nadia married after her fist husband’s death. Considering the strongconnotations of loss and incarceration respectively, it is worth noting that Nadia does not distinguish betweenthe loss experienced by the children of her deceased husband and the experience of her last child, whose fatherhas been detained. Nadia’s words are therefore an invitation to pursue an aspect hitherto unexamined: themeaning of motherhood in relation to the detainees’ wives’ sense of womanhood as figures on the ground ofthe national discourse surrounding al-asra and their intimate ties. By analysing the feelings of womanhoodthat the non-linear duration of incarceration actualises in the detainees’ wives, I examine the configuration ofaffect during incarceration from the vantage point of the detainees’ wives as women. As featuring in thethesis’s evocation of discourses of suffering, sacrifice and heroism as contexts, motherhood appears toencapsulate what it means for women to suffer and fight for Palestinian independence.Against this background, I investigate the notion of ‘the Palestinian mother’ as what affects theconfiguration of womanhood for detainees’ wives and how this configuration is lived by my interlocutors.Through an investigation of the meaning of being a mother during a husband’s incarceration in the light ofnotions about ‘the Palestinian Mother’, the chapter ponders whether the therapeutic trope of the safe place ispossible for my interlocutors: can and do they establish an affective place that feels just safe enough to face thesuffering that they endure on a permanent basis? My aim is not to validate a therapeutic understanding of thewomen’s lives, but rather to ask why such an understanding may not encompass those lives. In posing this182


question, I interrogate motherhood as a Palestinian defeat of skepticism in the face of incarceration.The inquiry opens with a description of the mother as a Palestinian symbol, followed by an outlineof how I understand the gap between motherhood as a symbol and my interlocutor’s lives as women andmothers. I then analyse how particular aspects of womanhood are simultaneously elicited, obscured andsubstituted during their husbands’ incarcerations . In resonance with earlier chapters, a focus on configurationalters with an inquiry into the figures of my ethnography. Finally, the chapter discusses the potential of theordinary as a site of recovery, of loss or of the feelings of emptiness emphasised by Nadia.VIII.I Womanhood against the Backdrop of the Mother as a National SymbolTo understand the meaning of motherhood during incarceration necessitates a return to the standinglanguage. The part of the standing language that is constituted by the Palestinian meta-narrative evolvingaround suffering and heroism is the basis on which the national figure of motherhood is configured. Intrinsicto this discourse, to the gendered organisation of Palestinian society and not least with regard to violence isthat the centre of gravity is younger men who are perceived to be the heroes of the resistance against Israel.They are the martyrs who have sacrificed their lives, while the detainees have put theirs on hold, all in thename of a Palestinian nation -state (cf. Nashif 2008, Khalili 2007, Massad 1995, Peteet, 1991).Women figure too in discourses about Palestinian national becoming. In contrast to the men whofight, women are elicited as the soil in which ‘manhood, respect and dignity’ grow (Massad 1995: 474). Incurrent national discourse, mothers, daughters and sisters appear as those who are supportive, yet secondary inthe Palestinian narrative (Massad 1995: 473). Through an analysis of the constitutional documents of thePalestine Liberation Organisation and political communiqués from al-Intifā a al-awwal, Massad shows howwomen are represented as mothers destined to deliver the new warriors and mourn their loved and lost sons.This gendered organisation of resistance activities was crystallised in Al-Ali’s cartoon and in the expression ofthe family as emblematic of both the plight and endurance of the Palestinians discussed in relation to theconference call in Chapter VI. This is encapsulated in Das’s reflection on the intersection of gender and war:‘sex and death, reproduction and war, become part of the same configuration of ideas and institutions throughwhich the nation-state sets up defences to stave off the uncertainty emanating from dangerous aliens and fromthe ravages of time’ (Das 2008: 285). I ponder the Palestinian concern with motherhood as a ‘defence to staveoff the uncertainty emanating from dangerous aliens and from the ravages of time’. Such a comprehension ofmotherhood features in this verse written by a detainee:Oh Mother, if they forbid you to visit me, I will send my heart to youAnd I will ask my heart to gently kiss your hand and to take care of your flowers and gardenOh mother, do not be confused … all Palestinian men are eaglesPlease Mother, I ask you to remain as I always knew youFree and strong, with your faith in God. 9494The song was written by former detainee Ayman Ramadan in 2005.183


Whereas the mother here might refer to a specific mother, ‘she’ is potentially the enunciation of the woman asthe motherland, or in the words of the Arabist Nathalie Khankan, ‘woman as Palestine’ (Khankan 2009: 122).Yet, as Massad suggests, a reconfiguration of Palestinianness has taken place: to be Palestinian formerlyimplied to be born in the territorial motherland, whereas being Palestinian at present is inherited through theagnatic line (Massad 1995: 472). The meaning of the mother in the national discourse is thus both continuousand alternating.Emblematic of the contemporary discourse of Palestinian suffering are the mothers of heroicdetainees like the woman addressed in the song, as well as the mothers and widows of martyrs, who mourn yetalso keep the household and the family together in the wake of destitution. Following Allen, this discoursewas described in Chapter III as a politics of immediation (Allen 2009). This politics permeates the Palestinianmedia and everyday conversation (Peteet, 1991, Jean-Klein, 2003), and it is braided into the policy ambitionsof psychosocial interventions aimed at those who are labelled secondary victims. A significant question,however, is what the national emphasis on heroic men, on the violent, so-called traumatic, events they engagein, and on the suffering, nurturing mothers means for how the detainees’ wives experience themselves as(Palestinian) women and how this intersects with other’s perceptions of them. This concern resonates withinsights generated in South Africa, where violence and suffering formed part of the national discourse andrepresentation during and after the struggle against apartheid (Ramphele 1997, Sideris 2001). My analyticalunderstanding of these gendered national expressions is informed by Das (Das 1998, 2007, 2008), Cavell(1979, 1988) and Strathern (Strathern 2004). These works are versatile in conceptualising the entanglementof gendered subjectivity, violence and the everyday:The formation of the subject as a gendered subject is then molded through complex transactionsbetween the violence as the originary moment and the violence as it seeps into the ongoingrelationships and becomes a kind of atmosphere that cannot be expelled to an ‘outside’. […] Iwant to evoke at this point Wittgenstein’s sense of there being no outside and the image ofturning back that he offers, as thinking of a humble way of using words: ‘The ideal, as we thinkof it, is unshakeable. You can never get outside it; you must always turn back. There is nooutside; outside you cannot breathe’. This image of turning back evokes not so much the idea ofa return, as a turning back to inhabit the same space now marked as a space of destruction, in whichyou must live again. Hence, the sense of the everyday in Wittgenstein as the sense of somethingrecovered. How you make such a space of your own not through an ascent intotranscendence but through a descent into the ordinary…. (Das 2007: 62)Two aspects of the quote are relevant here: First, Das contends that there is no outside to the ideal. Thisinvites us to consider the pertinence of the Palestinian discourse on heroic suffering for how being a detainee’swife is experienced. With reference to Bergson’s concepts of the virtual and the actual (Deleuze 1988), thenational discourse here can be said to figure as the realm of the virtual through which is actualised particulardifferentiations of the subjective duration of the detainees’ wives. To consider the actualisations of detainees’wives’ lives against the background of national discourse means to interrogate the interstice between national184


epresentation and lived experience. Accepting Das’s premise that there is no clear delineation between aninside and an outside to subjectivity sheds light on how the stitching of the inside and the outside of genderedsubjectivity are reconfigured in the face of incarceration. This premise resonates with the thesis’s location inthe tension between examining how lives are configured and considering how they are lived by human being.Secondly, Das’s notion of living through violence as a descent into the ordinary becomes fertilewhen investigating how this descent is moulded and lived on an everyday basis. In Das’s writing, recoveryfigures in relation to the ordinary (Das 2007). Recovery features in the following too, but it appears as apotential that may unfold through the actualisation of particular aspects of womanhood. This argument drawson the conceptualisation of the configuration of the incarcerated conjugate as a relational cut in Chapter V.Whereas the previous chapter showed how an unknowing relation appears in the conjugal cut, here Iemphasise what this cut engenders with regards to womanhood and the significance of children for theirmothers during their father’s absence.Running through the thesis is how the violence that brought about incarceration for the women’shusbands may be said to be without finitude. against this backdrop, I shed light on how gender is intrinsic inhow to conceptualise the relationship between event and the ordinary in the occupied territory and how thisfurthers knowledge of how some women’s lives and everyday may be part neither of the national Palestiniannarrative (Massad 1995) nor of the discourses about the occupied territory that circulate globally (Fassin2008; Lindholm-Shulz 2004).To underline the significance of relational subjectivity in the descent from violent events into theordinary, Strathern’s Wagner-inspired analytic is productive (Strathern 2004). With reference to Wagner(1991), Strathern assumes that persons are fractals of the relationships through which they are constituted(Strathern 2004). All the relationships a person engages in are therefore folded into that very fractal.Depending on the particular relations in which a person is engaged, different fractals are elicited. The instantone fractal is elicited, the multiplicity of relations inside the illusive unity of a singular fractal are obscured(Strathern 2004: 70). A further relevant notion is substitution, where one fractal image is substituted byanother fractal image (Wagner 1991). Strathern uses the idea of an image as a means of understandinginstantiated personhood. This conceptualisation is versatile in examining how the descent into the ordinaryfor the detainees’ wives is coloured by the instantiation of one fractal of their person in particular, namelymotherhood.VIII.II Detainees’ Wives as Actualised and Eclipsed by Violent EventsThe present section revisits the encounter between the wives of the detainees and the psychosocial servicesthey were offered by the Prisoners’ Support Centre. Among these women are twenty-nine-year-old Yasmin,the affluent woman living in Bāb aš-šams with her six children. As already stated, Yasmin’s husband wassentenced to hundred years in an Israeli prison due to both his political affiliations and his participation inactivities of resistance against Israel. During a conversation with Yasmin, we spoke about her experience with agroup therapeutic project with other detainees’ wives and how it should be compared with regular socialforums with her female friends and relatives. I asked her what her situation of being married to someone whohad been imprisoned for hundred years meant for her in ordinary social interaction. Yasmin said that it made185


her feel excluded. She was quiet for a while and then added, ‘from my own experience’. Her words refer to thefact that she is married and therefore in theory may participate in regular women’s talk and gossip in whichhusbands are evidently a topic of conversation. Yasmin elaborated how she felt that she could not contributeanything to such interactions. If she revealed to other women how it felt to be in her situation, she was sure tobe the focus of gossip among her near and distant peers for a long time. This is because such feelings are atodds with the affect permeating the Palestinian meta-narrative, in which women such as Yasmin are elicited asthe proud and honourable wives of heroic resistance fighters. Expressing the fact that, rather than proud,Yasmin, like Nadia, feels empty and lonely questions the validity of a discourse that may be public but whichpermeates intimate relationships too. ‘In the group [with the other detainees’ wives], Yasmin continued, ‘I canspeak about everything that didn’t happen’. Yasmin here indicates how her everyday lacks the small and bigevents that are perceived to make up a life together with a husband. Emblematic of Cavell’s definition ofmarriage as the willing repetition of days (Cavell 1988: 178), it is precisely this repetition that is absent fromher conjugal relationship. Yasmin can participate in regular social forums with her in-laws, sisters and friendsby talking about her children, but she cannot share things concerning her husband, even if it is such a thing asmoaning about him, because it would comprise not only her own image, but support for the national struggletoo.Yasmin gestures toward an interstice between the pride that is supposed to fill in the void of herabsent husband and the way she actually feels. According to a therapeutic assumption about the healingpotentiality of groups, Yasmin supposedly feels better among women in situations similar to her own, wherethe absence that saturates their lives is considered to constitute their ties (Bion 1961). Yasmin and her peerswere included in the group project by the Prisoners’ Support Centre precisely because they are married to adetainee. Thus the violent events of resistance undertaken by their husbands appear to elicit the women asdetainees’ wives married to honourable men.From my participation in the group therapy in Dar Nūra for detainees’ wives, I realised that theintended creation of social bonds on the basis of shared experience captures only part of the affectivediscourses in and around such therapeutic groups. In the group in Dar Nūra, the women did not talk about‘everything that did not happen’, but about what structured and filled their everyday. The content of thetherapeutic sessions concerned the women’s children, problems with their upbringing, trouble with pleasingtheir families–in-law, and sometimes financial issues such as how to find the time for a job when one must beresponsible for one’s children. This was confirmed in the women’s diaries, the pages of which were full ofworries about children and about what other people thought of them as wives and as mothers. Described atlength were also frustrations about how to deal with gossip and ‘intruders’: people trying to help bytransgressing boundaries that feel personal to the women. As discussed in Chapter VI, these boundaries closedin on the women during their husband’s incarcerations, causing a contraction of the closeness around them.Only in the instance of a coming or recent visit to their husband in prison was he mentioned. These passagesexpressed intense emotions of frustration, joy and anger. But, when the everyday turned everyday again, anymention of one’s husband evaporated from the pages too. It appears that only what is elicited as present in thewomen’s everyday lives, namely children, family and social networks, could be shared in a forum with womenin similar situations, as well as in the women’s writings, which addressed no one but themselves.186


As described in Chapter IV, talk in social forums about a husband who is a detainee appears tofollow a certain grammar that is braided by words and bodily gestures, a grammar that, much like thediscourse of immediation (Allen 2009), permeates the homes comprising a detainee, but equally so in anysocial instances when his relatives are present. This apparent grammar of speech is actualised frequently, sincethe public Palestinian concern about the detainees (Nashif 2008) is in everyday interaction translated intoexpressing apprehension regarding a detainee’s sentence, his whereabouts and his health.Notwithstanding the fact that talk about a detainee takes up a lot of social conversation, what isabsent from such talk, including among the talk of the family or close friends about him, is the fact that, apartfrom being a detainee, he is also a husband. The relationship between an imprisoned husband and his wife isnot an issue that is spoken about in any forum. Whenever friends, family or social acquaintances greet the wifeof a detainee, the question asked is, as already stated, ‘kīf al-asīr’ (How is the detainee)? I have yet to encountera situation where women, even if all of them are the wives of detainees, ask ‘kīf jozik’ (how is your (f )husband)?With reference to Austin’s term ‘illocutionary acts’, where uttering the sentence is the act ratherthan the foregrounding of an act (Austin 1962 (2009): 110), in Chapter V I argued that a question like kīf alasīractualises the women’s relationship to her husband, yet here I propose that this is an actualisation thatparadoxically leaves aside the conjugal aspect of that relation. The aspect blindness of the detainees’ wives aswives is actualised through everyday conversations and social interaction. A similar instance where thisoccurred was during a visit to an aunt of Amina and Layla. The aunt was nice but a bit weird, Layla hinted.The lady reminded me of other occasions, other women I have met during my time in the occupied territory.She served us tea and sweets while telling me vivaciously about how her nephews had been involved in heroicactivities during al-Intifā a al-Aqsa. She started recounting the details, after which Amina said, ‘Stop it, sheknows already, she knows Palestine’. Overhearing Amina’s plea, the aunt set the scene for her narrative in 2001,during the first part of al-Intifā a al-Aqsa. Back then Israeli soldiers came to her house and hurt her when theysearched for Amina’s husband and the other men in the group partaking in violent activities. She asked me,‘Do you know about the Israeli soldiers; do you know what they did to me?’ Amina’s aunt recounted in detailthe activities of violence undertaken by Amina’s husband and its reverberations for the now detained husbandand for herself as a distant relative of the detainee. Missing from her story were the consequences for Aminaand her girls, who were an audience as much as I was that day. Honourable but wounding relations areactualised through storytelling, yet the aspect of these derivative wounds concerning the incarceratedconjugate is left out of the accounts.One reason for the absence of the conjugal relationship in talk about detainees and their relatives is,as already noted, that whatever is seen to threaten the Palestinian family as a stronghold against Israel iscontained within the family or within the personal relationships that are affected so as not to threaten the ideaof the Palestinian collective as standing tall in the face of the occupation. Being affected by mourning,however, is not seen as threatening the cohesion of the Palestinian collective, as Khankan writes in her analysisof the female voice in post-Oslo Palestinian poetry (Khankan 2009). Female poets, who often adoptmasculine forms of writing while leaving experimentation of form to male writers, are included in thePalestinian cultural canon through writing as ritha (elegy) (Khankan 2009: 112). A mother or a widow187


mourning a šahīd are not considered a threat to relational texture, despite their potential to affect socialrelations. As argued in Chapter IV, mourning, however, is not possible for the wives of the detainees. Withreference to Freud, Cavell describes mourning as ‘the world must be regained every day, in repetition, regainedas gone. Here is a way of seeing what it means that Freud too thinks of mourning as an essentially repetitiveexercise. […] Freud regards mourning as the condition, that is to say, of allowing its independence from me, itsobjectivity’ (Cavell 1988: 172). Of relevance here is how Freud thinks of mourning as both a repetitive, dailyregaining of the world and as something that creates the possibility of separating mourning from one’s self.Whereas the everyday must be created and regained every single day, for the detainees’ wives it is impossible toseparate themselves from the void left by their incarcerated husbands. I have argued that the way in whichtheir incarcerated husband’s absence is woven into their lives is in its foundation uncanny. Part of what isuncanny is the wives’ status as sexually mature women who are simultaneously living alone, a situation whichis naturally permeated not only with emotional longing, the withholding of physical desire and not leastdoubt – doubt about the other and doubt about the worth of the supposedly heroic action. Together theseaspects of the conjugal relationship configure how a wife’s relationship to a detainee is expressed as leavingaside its conjugal aspect.Not only in the everyday is this aspect-blindness actualised. Unpredictably this resonates with howdetainees’ wives are supposedly actualised and thus acknowledged as the wives of detainees by being classifiedas ‘secondary victims’ by the organisations that attempt to ameliorate the social and emotional burdens fordetainees’ families. Organisations like the Prisoners’ Support Centre categorise the detainees’ wives astherapeutic subjects due to both their relationship to a detainee and, even more importantly, the women’sconnection to a violent and allegedly traumatic event. The latter is actualised through a relationship to adetainee with a violent event behind him. Considering this actualisation through Strathern’s notion of‘eclipsing’ reveals how an actualisation can both elicit and obscure the conjugal aspect of the women’srelationship to their husband. Eclipsing entails that, in the actualisation of one particular fractal, an eclipseoccurs simultaneously in which the remaining fractals are obscured by the one elicited. However, thedescribed manner in which a violent event figures as a criterion for the detainees’ wives to be actualised andacknowledged socially and as subjects of psychosocial intervention simultaneously implies that in the instant awoman is actualised as a detainee’s wife through her relationship to her husband, the conjugal aspect iseclipsed. What remains elicited is the violent event and, as an expression of it, the woman’s husband. Theparadox of such an eclipse is that a woman’s wifehood is both the criterion for acknowledgement and the basisfor the reduction or her conjugal relationship to merely a relationship to a detainee. The remainder is anobscuration of what created her acknowledgement in the first place: the fact that she is part of a conjugate. Allthe relationships in which the wife of a detainee is engaged, and with them the tentacles of that event (Das2007: 1), become eclipsed and stored in the shadow of the violent event. It is thereby revealed how thecriterion that is intended to render acknowledgement in its actualisation of someone obscures those forms oflife that do not fit that criterion exclusively. What occurs in the case of the detainees’ wives is that even thosewho fulfil the criterion of being related to a violent event are eclipsed the moment they are actualised.188


VIII.III Substituting Conjugal Womanhood through ContainmentThere seems to be a further tag to the event-centred criterion that concurrently actualises and eclipses theconjugal aspect of the wives of political detainees. A substitution of aspects of gendered subjectivity occurs inthe wake of the eclipsed conjugal relationship. Presented below is an instance emblematic of aspect blindness,where the eclipse of the conjugal gives way to other aspects of female subjectivity.It is the third day of Eid al-Fitr, and life is slowly its normal after the end of the holy month of ar-Ramadan. Today is Friday, which means that the three sisters are baking bread in the wood-fired oven in theback yard of Reema’s house, one of the oldest houses in the village. Some days the sisters bake bread for theirtwo households for the coming days here, and at other times in the house of Amina and Layla. Reema is, asalready mentioned, the oldest of three sisters, in her early forties, married with four girls and two boys. Theirhouse is a traditional Arab villa made of Jerusalem stone in the centre of Dar Noura, where the mother of thethree sisters was born. Being in her mid-thirties and not married, Layla lives with Amina, her girls and theirmother in the new, small and somewhat cramped house that has already been described. To recapitulate, it wasAmina’s former house, the old family home that was demolished seven years ago by the Israeli army as an act ofrevenge for an ‘operation’. As already described, the operation carried out by Amina’s husband, who wasimprisoned for nineteen years as a result. And it was Aisha’s husband who orchestrated the entire operation.On this still warm October day, his sentence of life plus sixty years had just been handed down by the Israelimilitary court a week earlier. When this conversation took place, Layla was sitting on the wall from thecourtyard to the garden peeling cucumbers for the salad together with myself. Amina was watching the lastbreads in at-Tabouna, when Reema came out of the house, slightly annoyed, where her young daughter keptasking when we would eat the lunch she has prepared.‘Where is Aisha?’, Reema asks impatiently; ‘when is she coming, she was supposed to be here now?Lunch is ready, it is almost three o clock, yalla Imm Nour. 95 ’ Reema’s sister Amina answersher vaguely while absent- mindedly turning the bread in the wood-fired oven:’ I called herone hour ago, she said twenty minutes; she will be here soon.’ Layla, Amina’s and Reema’syounger sister, adds: ‘ I called her; she said she had to clean the bathroom because of al-Eidand all the visitors’. Reema looks up and abruptly interrupts her: ‘She is always cleaning herbathroom; that was also her excuse last week, she is nervous, very nervous’. Layla agrees:‘Yeah, she has been very nervous lately, always doing something, cleaning, visiting, driving the kidsaround, always busy’. […] Amina, who has hitherto been looking after her bread, suddenly gets up,interrupts their talk and agitatedly says: ‘Nervous? Well, what can she do, what do you wanther to do, lifetime plus sixty years…what is she supposed to do?’Aisha, the woman who is the topic of their conversation, is someone I have become a little close to, and I toowitnessed the effect her husband’s sentence had on her. Be it nervousness, restlessness or avoidance of eyecontact, something had happened. Her altered mode of being also emanated from her writings in her diaries95Aisha also goes by the name of Imm Nour, since she Nour’s mother.189


and letters discussed in the previous chapter. When I came with Aisha to her house after the lunch withAmina, Reema and Layla, Aisha herself said to me that, after seven years of imprisonment, the fact that herhusband had received his final sentence had caused feelings she had never experienced before, feelings that donot go away, no matter what she does to keep herself busy, be it cleaning or even praying. According to herself-perception as a devout Muslim, the absence of any effects from her prayer unsettles her. She does keepherself busy, performing her job with sincerity, persistence and not least every available hour when she is notnurturing, studying with her two children, taking care of her family and family–in-law, making sure that thehouse she is building is done according to the plan, and both visiting and receiving visits from villagerswanting to ask her a favour or pay her respect. It seems appropriate to recall how, in one of our firstconversations, she stated adamantly about the then undecided length of absence of her husband: ‘This is not aloss. It is missing. Loss is miserable, missing is romantic’. Yet, what she felt during the weeks after the finalsentence was handed down to her husband was, she said, and it came from her, like being lost, as it did forYasmin and Nadia.In her attempts to contain her feelings of being lost within the romantic connotations of longing,Aisha eclipses the aspect of herself as a wife with an absent husband through her everyday activities and bykeeping herself busy. To some extent she writes down what is detached from her subjectivity in her diaries andin the letters she writes to her husband. Through these expressive media, she partially actualises herself as awife. Even in the letters, though, Aisha does not tell her husband about how her self unravelled when she wasinformed about the sentence, only that Palestine will be victorious some day. Her affective expressions are thusimmaculately kept within the language of national struggle as rendering legitimate any kind of personal loss orsuffering. Yet there is a small interstice between her everyday as a mother and the instantaneous enunciationsof herself as part of a conjugal relationship through her letters and diaries.This precarious void resonates with the gap between everyday self-representation and how, as statedearlier,Amina expresses herself as a wife to her husband through the photos of herself she sends or asks herchildren to take to her husband in prison. Usually, as a seasonal farmer and a weaver with little money, Aminais dressed very simply, never displaying any sign that could be taken as vain or as wanting to attract a new man.Her worn hijab is devoid of embroidery; she would never wear any of the fancy decorated hijabs I naively gaveher. In stark contrast thereto, the photos she sends to her husband display a woman with her hair done simplebut elegantly by the hairdresser. In these photos Amina is not wearing the hijab, since her husband is allowedto see her unveiled. And she is dressed in smart women’s wear that connotes unambiguous if discretesensuality. However, in the part of Amina’s everyday that is not about herself as a wife in an expressiverelationship to her husband, there is no trace of this woman. This is by far the major part of her everyday.In order to illuminate the braiding of womanhood as wife and a life devoid of this part ofwomanhood, I introduce this stanza from the poem ‘My Messengers to the Desert’ by the Palestinian poetGhada al-Shafi’I, whose poems have appeared throughout the thesis:Like thisfrom a day that departs in the tolling [sound] of goldto a day that swims in clouds190


they walkinheriting [their] longingstoring it in clay jugs [made to hold drinking water]. 96Khankan describes al-Shafi’i’s poetry as a pondering over the nexus of lack and want (2009: 129), for instance,with regard to the national homelessness of the Palestinians (2009: 133). Longing in the poem above iscontained in the everyday objects of clay jugs, perhaps suggesting that the only materialisation such a longingcan assume is that of ordinary objects. The longing subject matter of the poem is not personal longing, butrather the collective longing for statehood and freedom on the part of the Palestinians.In the endeavour to understand how Amina’s and Aisha’s lives as wives are eclipsed through theweaving of their conjugal relationships into the everyday, I pause by two aspects of the poem: first, thetransfiguration of longing into everyday objects; and secondly the image of containing longing. Longing thatis reconfigured into everyday objects is somewhat crudely illustrated by the products that Amina weaves in thefactory to sustain and nurture her children, namely pillows that bear the image of Che Guevara, a heroicfigure who encompasses the resistance to the occupation by the Palestinian people. Whereas letters, diariesand photos for their husbands are no less ordinary than a clay jug, for Amina and Aisha such objects refer tothat part of their ordinary lives that is entangled with the extraordinary (Das 2007; cf. Chapter One), namelytheir husband’s disappearance from the everyday. And, as figures in the poem, the personal longing of Aminaand Aisha is entwined with the inherited, collective longing for freedom. Moulding their everyday no lessthan other structuring principles, incarceration is what casts their ordinary lives, their close relationships, theirlived time and their domestic sphere as uncanny. The pillow showing Che Guevara is emblematic of therevolutionary struggle. Yet Amina’s motivation for producing it is less the fight for national liberation than it isthe task of nurturing and sustaining a home and a life for her family. Weaving the pillow is thus Amina’s ownact of eclipsing her conjugal relationship, eliciting motherhood in its place.The poem’s clay jugs’ containment of longing may, in the cases of Amina, Aisha and other women insimilar situations, can be likened to the objects in which their loneliness and emptiness is contained, namelythe diaries, photos and letters. Containment of such feelings is necessary. If they were actualised in publicrather than personally, they would severely compromise the image of detainees’ wives as filled with the honourand pride they are supposed to feel due to their conjugal relations with national heroes (Nashif 2008).Loneliness and emptiness are thus best kept at a distance from words because they have no home in thestanding language. Containing these feelings is therefore braided into Aisha’s constant cleaning of thebathroom, Amina’s weaving and Yasmin’s restless attempt to come up with errands she can run in her big land96Ghada al-Shafi’i’: ‘My messengers to the Desert’, in ‘Eternal Guests of Fire’ (1999: 89) in Khankan2009: 135. The poem has been translated by Khankan and transliterated by Christina Copty.w-h ka …min yaum hib f ran n al- ahabila yaumin a’imin f as-sa byas r naw-humm yataw ra na al- an nw-yu azin nahu f il-jar r il-mu adat li-ma’i i - urb191


cruiser. According to the Palestinian meta-narrative, the affect surrounding the detainee is supposed to fill upthe void his absence from everyday life has brought about in his wife. Rather, the thesis bears testimony tohow this void engulfs the detainees’ wives. Whereas the women’s feelings of pride are undoubtedly present insituations in which they are actualised as wives to the famous heroes, what happens when wifehood is replacedby motherhood? The question is whether the obligations of the detainees’ wives fill the abyss in their everydayor constantly tear open that affective void which the women’s acts of containing uncanny emotions attempt tomend.VIII.IV Substituting Conjugality with Everyday MotherhoodThe women’s everyday lives revolve around their children: raising them, worrying about them and nurturingthem. If the women work, it is because having an absent husband has pushed them to do so, save for Aisha,who, with her MA in gender and development and political orientation, thrives in a job that involves muchresponsibility and long days. Yet in her everyday life, as the wife of a famous and heroic detainee, her maritalrelation is somehow absent. As the anecdote showed, Aisha’s close friends and kin all know about hersituation, but her nervousness is not spoken about as something related to her situation of having her husbandimprisoned for life. Rather, she is blamed by everyone but Amina, who is in a similar situation, for being toobusy, thus compromising her role as a mother, and for being too nervous. Whereas this could and does befallany professional woman in the occupied territory, as well as worldwide, the fact that Aisha is married to adetainee closes in the space she has available to defend the choices she makes concerning her priorities. Nodifferent from Amina or any of the other housewives, what take up all of Aisha’s time and form the basis of theconcern of and inquiries from kin and social relations are aspects related to the detainees’ wives as mothers.If we understand the term ‘detainee’s wife’ as a criterion for being actualised and acknowledged inthe women’s social and intimate relations, as well by psychosocial organisations, it seems that, in itsactualisation, the event-centred criterion does more than obscure the marital relationship that actualised thewives in the first place: The aspect of subjectivity engaged in a conjugate is substituted by an image ofmotherhood. And, in the everyday life of detainee’s wives, the actualisation of their subjectivity based onmotherhood eclipses the other social relations that constitute the women.At the beginning of the chapter, I suggested that persons are fractals made up through partialconnections that contain all the constitutive connections in each of their fractal instantiations. From theabove, however, it appears that the multiplicity of social connections that detainees wives engage in are turnedinto one reified aspect only, namely motherhood. Whereas the notion of fractal persons who incorporate allthe aspects of the total person in its apparent singularity implies that the different fractals are elicited indifferent relations, it seems that, in the case of the detainees’ wives, only one of the partial connections isactualised, namely motherhood. This might happen in many social situations that human beings engage in,but what makes this stand out as aspect blindness is the temporal duration across different relations. Apartfrom forming part of ordinary social interaction and speech, this also happened in the group therapeuticproject described earlier, both in the therapeutic talk and in the process that is supposed to attend to all thepartial aspects of detainees’ wives’ subjectivity. The therapeutic sessions, however, all revolved aroundmotherhood.192


The substitution is also evident in how the women structure and live their everyday and how theyactualise themselves toward themselves in diaries, and toward others, even those in a similar situation, namelyas mothers who sustain the family and the development of the children, rather than as women who are lostdue to the absence of their men. In this sense I consider Aisha’s remark, that missing is positive and loss isnegative, to be a substitution of gendered subjectivity. To her, loss is negative: it permeates her entire life andsubjectivity. Missing, on the other hand, in the manner she practices it is positive. To Aisha, being lost afterher husband’s sentence is turned into longing and made positive through the detachment of this feeling fromthe everyday and confining it to letters and diaries, where there is presumably a space for it. It is in the lettersand diaries that we find the potential for womanhood as part of a conjugate, a potential that also occurs forAmina, who actualises herself as a wife in the, literally instant, photos sent to her husband.The configuration of gendered subjectivity unfolds in the complex structure of an everyday whereeverything appears normal, yet in its compositional structure has been rearranged, not only by theorganisations and social relations that make up part of the social interactions the women engage in, but also bythe detainees’ wives themselves. Understanding the intricacies of the simultaneous actualisation and eclipsingof detainees’ wives as wives in the occupied territory may be furthered by attending to what motherhood andchildren mean in the everyday of the detainees’ wives.VIII.V Engendering Womanhood by Nurturing ChildrenDue to the Israeli securitisation procedures described in Chapter V, a day, a week, a life are all structuredaccording to the practices the detainees’ wives must engage in to sustain their conjugal relations. Whatintermittently organises the passing of a day, however, are the women’s children. All of my interlocutors’children go to school, so getting them out of bed, making them breakfast and walking or driving them toschool is how the day starts for the women. During school hours, the women cook lunch for the children,attend to the household chores of cleaning and mending clothes and perhaps they go on visits to family orfriends. Around three in the afternoon the children come back and eat, and their mothers will help them withtheir homework. Together they relax, watch television or receive guests in the evening before going to bed. Inthis regard, life with children in the families of detainees is hardly any different than life for other families inthe occupied territory.The significance of children in the families of detainees is different with reference to how childrenfigure and are configured in relation to national discourse and thus to their mothers as national subjects.Nadia’s first-born son, for instance, carries the name of his father, Baha’. People in the community are generallyfamiliar with the story about Nadia’s martyred husband. Learning Baha’s name, they therefore know that he isthe son of a šahīd. This casts not only Baha’ but Nadia too in an honourable light, even though Baha’ wasnamed before his father’s death: people do not know that Baha’ was born before his father was killed, and evenif they did, his name could allude to how Nadia had a hunch about her husband’s coming martyrdom. In thissense, Nadia is actualised as an honourable and suitably proud widow through her son being an extendedfractal relation of herself.The first time I participated in the therapeutic group in Dar Nūra, I went home with Aminaafterwards. Yet beforehand we had to pick up her children, who where in the children’s club downstairs in al-193


alladiyeh (the town hall). The children’ s club was run by Reema, Amina’s sister. After she had taken me on atour of the premises, Reema asked Rawan and I to sit down in front of the television and watch a video. Thevideo showed Zeinab, Aisha’s eleven-year-old daughter, on stage agitatedly singing and half shouting a song tothe glory of the detainees. Around her were children who enacted being imprisoned in an Israeli prison.When the song neared its end, they broke away the chains symbolising the freedom of Palestine. The videowas from the Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, that takes place every year on April 17 all over the occupied territory.In Dar Nūra, which at that time had just over one hundred of its four thousand citizens detained in Israel, theday is celebrated at the school, where the children perform songs, dramas and recitals like the above for acrowd made up of their parents, detainees’ families and official representatives of the community. Reema,Amina and Zeinab observed me intensely, eager to hear my reaction to the show. The instance made it clearthat, although the absence of the disappeared fathers’ enmeshment with the national longing for freedom maybe contained in the women and men of the occupied territory, it is inherited no less by their children.The value attached to aš-šuhada and al-asra in Palestinian society thus forms part not only of theconjugal relationship, but just as much of the relationship between parents and children. In Mervat’s home,the entanglement of parents, children and national discourse was actualised on different occasions. On one ofthe first occasions I visited the house, her six children, two of her sisters and a cousin were present in as-salon,where I expected us to talk about how her life had evolved after her husband has been incarcerated six yearsearlier. When I asked a question and Mervat started to answer it, she was interrupted by her oldest sonIbrahim. He is fifteen years old and at that time was preparing for at-Tawjīhi, which is the final exam insecondary school for Palestinian pupils. I asked Mervat to give her account of the events of her husband’scapture, how she felt while he was a fugitive and what it was like finally to know he has been detained.Ibrahim kept asking me if I did not want to hear about his father’s story, why he was haunted and how theIsraelis had missed him due to his slyness and choice of hiding place. Realising that the visit was a lecture inco-narration and the power to tell the right story, I listened to Ibrahim’s account while inviting the otherchildren to participate as well. On later occasions, when I had become less of a guest and more of a regular inMervat’s house, as already mentioned she would not bother to change her tracksuit into a jilbab, nor was shewearing a hijab when I entered the house. In the hope of preventing Ibrahim from taking over the wholeconversation, I arranged to be with Mervat in the mornings. However, when Ibrahim came back from schoolhe commented that his mother was not decently dressed and asked her if she was wearing mascara. He warnedher not to go out.This example reveals how a woman’s reputation extends beyond herself, and not least to herchildren. It is also interesting how Ibrahim as the oldest son takes it upon himself to fulfil the obligations tocontrol the whereabouts of his mother in the absence of her husband (cf. Farah 1984: 9). Ibrahim thus treatsMervat more like a sister than as a mother. We also see how the eclipse of Mervat as a wife occurs throughIbrahim’s adamant attempt to make his father’s violent activities the topic of conversation, rather than howeither Mervat or her children experienced it. The way in which Ibrahim enacted his obligations to make hisfather a centre of gravity in the story of the family and to take over his father’s own obligations allows me toponder whether we can consider Ibrahim as actualising a replication of the fractal of his father that is relatedto his obligations towards his wife. In instances such as the above, Ibrahim is configured to the role of his194


father, eclipsing the fact that he is a son. It can be said that Ibrahim’s efforts constantly to invoke thesignificance of his father are related to the fact that, upon turning fifteen, sons are no longer permitted to visittheir fathers in an Israeli prison. As such it may be imperative for Ibrahim to insist on his father’s presence inthe family and to underline his own relationship to him. This is because, when he still had a permit to visit hisfather, it was a way of staying within the conjugal relationship of his father and mother due to his role as amediator and a messenger between them. Once his permission to visit his father comes to an end, he becomesexternal to the conjugal relationship, just as his father is external to the domestic sphere of his family.The latter sentence points toward an argument that incarceration actualises the children as pivotalin the conjugal relationship. As Joseph writes about Lebanese children’s everyday lives, the lives of thesechildren are permeated by their relationship to their mother because she is the one who engages with thempractically, temporally and affectively ( Joseph 1999: 176). Fathers are no less important, but traditionally inLevantine countries the mother expresses parental care, whereas the father represents authority (ibid.). In thecase of enduring imprisonment, however, the relationship between children, their mother and their father isreconfigured. Whereas the mother is still the one close to the children, their father’s distance is literallyaccentuated. Yet the conjugal relationship being cut, and this cut being underlined through a lack ofpermission to visit a husband, the child or the children step in as a mediating relation between mother andfather. Right after and sometimes even better than their mothers-in-law, women pass on their letters to theirhusbands through their children. It is the children who carry the photos, presents and letters back and forthbetween their mother and father. This is naturally a great responsibility, but entwined with it is the capacity tobe in control of the flow of information to and from the captive conjugate.Children’s role as mediators cannot be underestimated. Their pertinence shows in how familiesextend their approved permits to each other. In one case, Mervat had longstanding permission applying toherself and her children to visit her husband once every fortnight. As Mervat said with a contemptuous shrugof the shoulder, the Israelis do not recognise the children in the photos of the mother’s ID. Thus families canswap children so that every now and again Amina’s children visit their father instead of Mervat’s childrenvisiting theirs. Since the visits take place in a collective visitors’ room, there are in practice no limitations as towhom among the detainees visitors can address.In the case of children visiting their fathers as mediators between their parents, I suggest that weconsider their role as a substitution of both mother and father the instant they pass over letters, gifts andphotos in either direction. The children thereby step in to the conjugal relationship precisely where it is cut,both as a replication of the father in the domestic sphere and as substitution of both mother and father in thepublic sphere of the prison visits. The substitution of wifehood with motherhood is therefore actualised in themost concrete of manners: the children step in where the father or mother cannot go in the conjugalrelationship between a detainee and his wife. The aspect of motherhood as overshadowing other aspects ofwomanhood is therefore actualised in the entanglement of the national discourse, attempts at containeddisturbing emotions and in an embodied sense too. Whereas the body of the mother and father was formerlyhow the two of them could read and thus know each other, the children’s bodies have taken their place, thusallowing conjugal reading to occur only derivatively. Next I ponder the interstices between motherhood,wifehood and womanhood and how these cracks stitch together an ordinary for the detainees’ wives.195


VIII.VI ādi: Absence, Skepticism and the OrdinaryIn Chapter IV, I referred to Cavell’s invocation of absence as that which insinuates skepticism (1988: 51).With the absence of the incarcerated husband woven into the texture of the ordinary, I will tie together thepresent chapter’s analysis by returning to questions of gender, the ordinary and skepticism.A frequent response in everyday conversations to questions like, ‘ kīfik,’ (how are you?), ‘šua bārik’ (f ) (what’s your news?)’ and ‘kīf a sāsik (how do you feel?) was ‘ ādi ‘ (nothing unusual orspectacular, plain ordinary). ādi was also a response to my question concerning if and how life had changedafter a husband had gone into prison. Yet, knowing and living with the wives of long-term detainees, althougheverything appeared normal, the way in which lives were stitched together was not the same as before theviolent event and their husbands’ attendant detention. How could they answer ‘ ādi’ to a life that has becomeuncanny in its seams?A response to this question demands a detour. Above it figures how the event-centred criterion forbeing acknowledged as a detainee’s wife in its actualisation eclipses the aspects of subjectivity that grantfulfilment of the event-centred criterion in the first place, namely a detainee’s wife’s relationship to a violentevent qua her detained husband. The wife-husband relationship is not only eclipsed, it is replaced by an imageof motherhood. The criterion for being actualised as a social being thus simultaneously dilutes its subject in itsbecoming and eclipses it. Filling in the void is both lived motherhood and motherhood as a national emblemthrough everyday temporal structure and children enveloped in national discourse and practice. This complexproduces what is and what is not considered ordinary and acceptable for detainees’ wives.As stated earlier and confirmed by a number of social scientists, there seems to be a division oflabour with regard to violence in the occupied territory (Allen 2006, Nashif 2008, Massad 1995). Men engagein direct, violent actions, and women suffer and mourn them, whilst sustaining and nurturing life, making sureit can go on in the permanent or temporary absence of the men of the household ( Jean-Klein 2003). Thequestion I have tried to answer here is why, if this is the case, do all the partial connections that constitutewomanhood seem to become eclipsed by motherhood in the descent into the ordinary?One answer to this question is that everyday life for women married to detainees is made up of thetasks of caring, nurturing and ensuring a livelihood for their families, mainly their children. Left without aman, as the women noted, they have to be both mothers and fathers in their families. As such, the genderedconnotation of events as related to male domains of subjectivity and everyday life as connoted by femalesubjectivity is complicated even further. The descent into the ordinary for the wives of detainees rests onallowing motherhood to eclipse other aspects of their subjectivities. I argue that for detainees’ wives the onlyway in which one can answer ‘ ādi’’ in response to ‘kīfik’ (how are you?) is by substituting conjugalwomanhood with motherhood.Elucidating how this is actualised makes relevant a return to the politicised and nationalised imageof the suffering, nurturing mother who sustains everyday life in the absence of a son ( Jean-Klein 2003). Forthe wives to emphasise those aspects of womanhood that are connoted by motherhood, life remainsrecognisable even in the absence of a husband. A mother still has to keep the family together by making sure196


that the everyday is normal by way of its structure: getting children ready to school, cooking for them,studying with them, earning money for their livelihood and caring for them. During the absence of a husband,these things still function routinely. As such, even though a violent event happened, the mother is what makeseveryday life safe in the midst of chaos. The symbol of ‘the Palestinian mother’ therefore literally securesPalestine as a homeland while her sons engage in resistance to the occupation. Reducing womanhood tomotherhood becomes a means of sustaining the Palestinian struggle for a nation state through nurture andsupport, making sure that violence does not fragment the Palestinian collective. In a sense, the women arecaptured in epitomising stability, whereas the detainees in prison are free to transform themselves: it is in factexpected of them, 97 this being the end of a liminal phase (Nashif 2008). Conceiving womanhood asmotherhood during male absence due to incarceration is a collective attempt to defeat skepticism.Here I consider skepticism to refer to doubt about the worth and value of the national struggle forstatehood. Skepticism in this register renders it impossible to know and to acknowledge the loss of a life as aholy sacrifice and a thirty-two-year prison sentence as a necessary price to pay. As shown in Chapter VII,skepticism figures most clearly with regards to the conjugal relationship. Replacing the conjugal withwomanhood as motherhood is therefore an attempt to keep skepticism at bay.The image of the Palestinian mother achieves more than keeping Palestine intact for the collectivityof Palestinians. The descent into the ordinary through motherhood is as much a way of constructing a ‘safeplace’ for the detainees’ wives precisely by actualising themselves in everything that is still ‘normal’ in theabsence of the husband. Were the women themselves, their social relations and the organisations attemptingto address their problems to focus on the relationship between husband and wife, it would mean that nothingcould stay intact because of how incarceration alters the captive conjugate.If we focus on the absence of a husband from the marital connotations of subjectivity only, nothingis ‘ ādi’ or normal in his absence. Thus if womanhood were eclipsed by the aspect of subjectivity connoted bymarital relations, the image of the Palestinian collective as practicing umūd and supporting activities ofresistance would be shattered. To keep the notion of a nation state intact, replacing conjugal womanhood withmotherhood is necessary. Whereas motherhood may be said to be part and parcel of the conjugal relationshipdue to its objective of reproducing warriors (Massad 1995), the slight tilt that obviates that relationship issignificant for understanding what is altered in the lives of women who live with an incarcerated husband.That alteration is what causes skepticism in the Palestinian collective.VIII.VII Concluding Notes: Recovering a Safe Place?With the analysis of the intimate, gendered relations constituting the backbone of sociality in Palestine, I havetried to disentangle the obscured residue of actualised subjectivities by directing the lens of ethnography to thewives of detainees who appear central yet out of sight in the Palestinian portrait of its key figures, as well as ininternational and Palestinian institutionalised images of who needs amelioration, why and how.My analysis has centred on work in and of the everyday (cf. Das 2007: 90) in the occupied territoryto show how a descent into the ordinary takes place among the Palestinian wives of detainees. What the97I owe this comment to my colleague Dr Frida Hastrup.197


analysis conveys is how we can think about that descent when a violent event and its attendant incarceration isnon-linear and devoid of finitude. For the wives of detainees, the violent event did not stop when the gunwent off, literally. Due to its presence in the wife’s life through her husband’s absence, the violent eventbecomes continuous, thereby blurring its boundaries with the everyday. Through the analysis, which revolvesaround the concepts of actualisation, eclipsing and substitution, it appeared that descent into the ordinary, isonly possible by detaching the partial aspect of gendered subjectivity involved in marriage in order to makethe everyday ordinary or ‘’ ādi’.The analytical part of this thesis opened with the example of a Spanish therapist and teacherpondering the possibility of helping Amina to feel better. As a solution to the therapist Muna’s frustration thatAmina did not improve, the Spanish trainer said, ‘We have to help Amina create a safe place’. My analysis hasshown that, as a detainee’s wife, there is no safe place in the sense of a return to the ordinary that existed beforeher husband disappeared now more than eight years ago. Cavell writes on return in this manner: ‘The returnof what we accept as the world will then present itself as a return of the familiar, which is to say, exactly underthe concept of what Freud names as the uncanny. That the familiar is a product of a sense of the unfamiliarand of the sense of a return means that what returns after skepticism is never just the same’ (1988: 166).Resonating with these words, the thesis has revealed that the ordinary as sited in the sphere of thedomestic has become uncanny for the detainees’ wives in the duration of their husband’s incarceration. Whenthe ordinary becomes uncanny, how should e think about the ordinary as a site of recovery? To the wives ofdetainees, there is no descent into the everyday in the sense as a return to a recovered realm of the ordinary.There is at the outset no safe place for the women.Potentially, however, a safe place can be created; the descent into the ordinary can happen bydetaching that partial connection of subjectivity that made Amina and her peers therapeutic subjects in thefirst place, namely the relationship to their heroic husbands. Replacing conjugal womanhood withmotherhood is a way to sustain and nurture not only their children, but also the Palestinian collective asengaging in violent events of resistance and struggle for a state, yet without allowing this to dissolve this verycollective. Through this substitution, the violent event, the importance, the necessity and legitimacy ofengaging in resistance remain in focus. Rendering events pivotally to acknowledge suffering is a mode ofknowing that only allows the Palestinian mother and the male hero to be actualised. It is this that makes theaspect-blindness created through actualisation, eclipsing and substitution necessary. What has appeared ishow the shadows created in this process are required in order to sustain the idea of a nation. Yet the shadowthat casts detainees’ wives in the light of motherhood is as important for the women themselves in order tostay themselves and to be able live ordinarily in the face of an altered ordinary.To where, then, is womanhood connoted by marriage displaced? The way conjugal womanhood canadopt a recognisable shape is by actualising it as an event: a photo of a sensual wife in contrast to the womanas an everyday mother. Or, conjugal womanhood is woven into pillows featuring Che Guevara, waiting in theliving room to celebrate the day of the detained husband’s return. Or, womanhood connoted by marriage isprojected, like Aisha’s letters, invisibly from everyday life into the heart of the Israeli prison.This conclusion begs hesitation in seeing event-based notions of suffering as a viable way ofunderstanding violence, its creation, its shape and its aftermath. From the analysis of this chapter, it appears198


that the event-based criterion for suffering misses what is altered but looks the same in every sense, namelyordinary life. The transformation resides in the ineffable, in the un-actualised virtual duration, in the affectiveregisters of empty eyes and busy hands, in everything that remains out of sight when the only lens used is thatof the event. This is an argument for an ethnography for understanding human life.199


Chapter IXConclusionAs a condensation of the findings of this study, I again evoke al-Shafi’i’s poem that opened the thesis:I merged a little with the void,sitting in a nocturnal room and was filled with your silencethat trembled in the picture 98In resonance with the merging of self and void in the verse, I have attempted to convey the reverberations ofabsence in Palestinian families of detainees. The sense of a void that forms part of a self indiscernibly makesthe self appear unaffected. Nonetheless the void keeps trembling, in al-Shafi’is poem as well as in the lives ofthe detainees’ wives who have been the focus of enquiry in this thesis.My analytical ambition has been to investigate the trembling of an absence that at the outset seemsonly to entail honour and pride for the women whose lives are in fact imbued by the absence of theirimprisoned husbands. As I have shown, absence reverberates in even the smallest part of these women’s lives.My study has pondered this trembling through an exploration of how absence in the shape of the non-lineartemporality of incarceration is worked into social realms and relations around the detainees’ wives.Conceiving of incarceration as an enduring but non-linear temporality rests on how, in the context of theIsraeli-Palestinian conflict, a prison sentence can always be shortened in negotiations between the conflictingparties about the ‘detainee issue’, and it can also be lengthened by Israeli appeals to ‘security concerns’. As such,incarceration has no end nor linear progression to it. My overall argument has been that, due to the inherentnon-linearity of incarceration of Palestinian men in Israeli prisons, the trembling of the absence left by adetained husband remains indiscernible as it works itself into realms and relations around a detainee’s wife.This trembling absence caused by incarceration only partially meets the proxies of suffering that I haveidentified as criteria for being granted a place in what I have termed the standing language of knowing andacknowledging suffering in the occupied territory. Meeting only one of these proxies of suffering, namely to berelated to their heroic husbands who are also perceived as victims of violence, the lives of the women appearordinary. I have located my inquiry between absence resulting from their husbands’ violent resistance againstIsrael and an ordinary on which violence seems to have left no marks.The premise for much of the anthropology of suffering and violence is the violent event and itsconsequences. In this thesis, violent events denote my interlocutors’ husbands’ violent activities of resistanceagainst Israel and their attendant incarceration. Yet the distance and proximity of these events in the lives ofthe men’s wives is not a settled matter, nor are the effects on the women’s ordinary lives. With this unsettledstatus of both the event and the ordinary, and their intersection, the thesis establishes a vantage point forinvestigating what the ordinary means in the context of absence caused by incarceration. The thesis hastherefore refrained from providing an a priori definition of the ordinary. With the women’s everyday as my98The poem by Ghada al-Shafi’i in Maps of Absence, from al-Shafi’i’s collection, al-Mashhad yukhabbi’ sahilan (TheSecene Hides Neighing) (al-Shafi’i 1999).200


point of departure, I have examined the spheres that make up their ordinary; a context configured byPalestinian and psychological understandings of suffering, the domestic sphere, lived temporality, kinrelations, the conjugal relation and selfhood as motherhood. My empirical investigation into these realms andrelations and how they are entangled has generated the central analytical insights of this study.My findings are the result of my ethnographic encounter with the women’s everyday lives in theWest Bank. Whilst living as housewives, - some of them as seasonal farmers and others with a paid job-, myinterlocutors were no strangers to representatives from various NGOs. These representatives were there toassist those in need of their services, be it food, health, judicial claims or, as I have examined, psychosocialinterventions that attempt to ameliorate the perceived affliction caused by the women’s husbands’incarceration. The entanglement of Palestinian lives and something as apparently foreign as psychotherapyhave appeared throughout the thesis: psychotherapists rather than kin or friends attended the wedding of awoman to a renowned detainee; therapeutic forums provide some space for the acknowledgement of feelingsthat, albeit unrecognised, accompany a relationship to a heroic husband; and Palestinian counsellors andtherapists merge their therapeutic objectives with the struggle for statehood. The saturation of the Palestinianinfrastructure of welfare services by the presence of NGOs is naturally reflected in how ideas and perceptionsof, for instance, suffering, poverty or well-being cannot be separated on a local-global axis. Rather, suchnotions resonate between Palestinian and internationally based understandings of affliction. It is thisassemblage of merging, resonating and contrasting understandings of suffering that has served as the contextfor the investigation of the experiences of detainees’ wives in this thesis. I have termed this intersection ‘theconfiguration of affect during non-linear absence caused by incarceration’. I have investigated this intersectionthrough a focus on three themes that overlap across the different chapters; namely how affect is configured byabsence, how relations are moulded by non-linear absence and how the acknowledgement of suffering isgranted or denied. The theoretical implications of an ethnography of this configuration have required thedevelopment of a framework resting on tension. Recalling Massumi’s definition of affect as the ability ‘toaffect and to be affected’ (Massumi in Deleuze 1987; xvi), I have examined how affect is moulded in the faceof imprisonment, pinpointing the detainees’ wives as my focus of inquiry. With the aim of investigating theapparently unambiguous affect of pride and derivative honour that the Palestinian meta-narrative holds to bethe sole consequence of being related to a Palestinian detainee I have examined how these women are affectedin the context of the notions of suffering that circle around them.This bifurcated mode of enquiry has required a constant alternation between registers of experienceand of configuration throughout the thesis. In analysing configuration, I have benefited from the writings ofStrathern and Deleuze as well as Deleuze’s reading of Bergson. The concern of these thinkers with relation,duration and difference as more than just linear progression and absolute difference were fruitful in myattempts to understand the context of the detainees’ wives as a field in which notions of suffering circulate anddelineate what forms of suffering can be known and acknowledged in the occupied territory, and how. It is thisanalytic that has enabled me to tease out one of my main points of inquiry: Why do the experiences of beingmarried to a political detainee only just, or not quite, qualify as a form of suffering that can be acknowledgedin Palestinian society or by psychosocial programmes designed to provide assistance to precisely these women?The paradox resides in the fact that the detainees’ wives are in fact included in such programmes next to201


mothers who have lost their sons or have sons in prisons, as well as widows of the so-called šuhada’ (martyrs).What is common to these women is that they are related to someone who is perceived to be at once a victimand a hero. The women are therefore included in a register of acknowledgement through what I haveidentified as a criterion of relation. Also common to the women is the fact that they meet this criterionthrough either the affinal or consanguineal relations to a victim or a hero. They are thus classified as ‘secondaryvictims’ by means of the inclusive criteria of relations. There is, however, a difference between the detainees’wives and the martyrs’ widows, a difference that affects their scope for having their suffering acknowledged. Ihave argued that the difference between the two is hinged upon the difference between the martyr and theprisoner. This difference can be conceptualised as a difference in kind due to how death and incarcerationimply different temporalites for their families, and to how the martyr and the detainee are respectively settledand unsettled as figures. Whereas the martyr’s life has ended and he has gained immortality due to thecatastrophe that has befallen him (Asad 2007: 49), the detainee may be physically absent from his everydaylife but does not undergo a fundamental transformation, nor is his absence denoted by finitude.Consequentially the two kinds of hero differ with regard to both temporality and figurative presence. For themartyr both temporal and figurative dimensions are transformed, whereas the detainee lacks the absolutealteration of these spheres. His spatial relocation and his absence appear temporary and he is still alive.The difference between the two kinds of hero reflects upon the wives of the detainees and themartyrs’ widows. The detainees’ wives fail to meet two additional criteria for acknowledging suffering, namelyevent and immediacy. These two criteria diverge from the criterion of relation, because event and immediacyguarantee acknowledgment. In contrast, relation alone provides no such guarantee. Because the detainees areabsent rather than dead, their wives fail both the criterion of event as well as that of immediacy, whose premiseis that violence begins and ends at a definite point in time. The failure to meet these criteria of suffering is theprimary reason why detainees’ wives are accorded only a peripheral expression in the standing language. I haveargued that this failure hinges on the encounter between the non-linear but enduring suffering of thedetainees’ wives and the premise of violence in the standing language that rest on a linear temporalitybeginning with an event of violence, an ensuing emotional response followed by an aftermath.The standing language’s failure to acknowledge the suffering of detainees’ wives is nonetheless dueto more than a failure to meet the criteria of event and immediacy. I have shown how such anacknowledgement holds a potential threat to the Palestinian meta-narrative on suffering and resistance inwhich the Palestinian family figures as a stronghold against the Israeli occupation. The experiences endured bythe detainees’ wives are therefore contained not only by the women individually, but as much by their closerelatives and friends. In the absence of a territorialised nation - state, relations among Palestinians internallyare all that is left to protect and continue the struggle. It is in this light that it becomes crucial to keep thePalestinian family intact. In this light, acknowledging the profound alterations that incarceration entails forthe conjugal relationship would be tantamount to an admission that the occupation has a profound, enduringand disruptive effect on the Palestinian family and thus on the collective. And, if the community were as tornas the dispersed occupied territories, what then would be left as a legitimate claim for Palestinian statehood?It is this conglomeration, actualised through notions of suffering, victimhood andacknowledgement, that I have called the standing language of knowing and acknowledging suffering in the202


occupied territory. This standing language configures the affect around what it means to be a detainee’s wife.Configuration works through the detainees’ wives apparently being included among the deserving victims, butin fact being excluded because their suffering is not encompassed by the notions through which properaffliction is known.In parallel with an examination of the configuration of affect, my concern has been to understandhow the women experience being affected by absence. How is absence endured, actualised and made todisappear into the weave of their ordinary? To answer this question, I have juxtaposed theories on relations,difference and duration with an analytical optic that is grounded in Das’s and Cavell’s readings ofWittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. Whereas the conceptualisation of the effect of violence on relationsis entirely Das’s, I have employed Cavell in an attempt to probe more deeply into particular relations and howprimarily the female part of that relation experiences the absence of a husband. My attempt to comprehendthe echoes of an absence that leave no visible or expressible mark in the lives of those left behind has beenaided by Cavell’s writings on subtle alterations in intimate relations and the ways in which a relation oremotion is expressed or contained in the making of the ordinary.Whereas the tension between attending to the configuration of affect on the one hand andexperience on the other hand appear to mirror a gap between the outer and the inner, my intention has beento show how one is constituted by the other, how private experience is actualised from virtual lines of affectand understanding of what the inner might be and how it should be managed. Das’s and Cavell’s emphasis onexpressions as being what can establish intelligibility, and thus community, has allowed me to juxtapose aninvestigation of experience with an analysis of how aspects of experience are configured as either elicited oreclipsed in both public narrative and Palestinian self-understanding. Rather than solving the tension ofperspective between the focus on experience and configuration of affect respectively, it is my hope that mythesis demonstrates the potential of allowing tensions to reverberate analytically. This framework has aidedthe conceiving of the most significant findings of my study. The theoretical contribution of the thesis engages,as stated, three interlinked areas, namely how affect is configured by non-linear absence due to incarceration,how relations are moulded by non-linear time and how the acknowledgement of suffering is granted ordenied. I will sum up these findings following a resumé of the individual chapters.IX.I Resumé of ChaptersThe distinction between the three mentioned themes is analytical and therefore cuts across the differentchapters. My inquiry has employed the three themes as a structuring principle in the hope of answeringFreud’s question in the context of Palestinian families affected by male incarceration: ‘Under what conditionscan the familiar become uncanny and frightening?’ (Freud 1919 [2003]: 124). Second, I have pondered howthe understanding of uncanniness in the context of the West Bank may be aided by what appears as anessential Western myth, namely Shakespearean tragedy.Because the Palestinian detainees occupy a pivotal place in both the Palestinian meta-narrative andglobal psychological discourse, inspiring local NGOs attempting to ameliorate the plight of the detainees andtheir families, it has been pertinent to explain the grounds on which the figures of the detainees and theirfamilies are elicited. Heroism, victimhood and suffering are all expressions that circulate whenever the203


detainees are mentioned in everyday conversation, conference presentations, text messages and emails. Tounderstand the particularity and pertinence of this context, Chapter III set the scene for how notions ofsuffering are configured in the occupied territory. The chapter investigated how suffering is acknowledgedthrough Cavell’s analytical distinction between knowing and acknowledgement. Attending to the criteriathrough which suffering is known it appeared that those criteria fail to acknowledge the full range ofexperiences involved in living a life as married to a detainee. Through an analysis of the domains of funding,therapeutic practice as well as Palestinian and global discourses of suffering, it was shown how these criteriaare actualised through resonance between two modes of understanding and treating suffering that are oftenjuxtaposed as incommensurable, namely the Palestinian metanarrative and global psychological discourse thatunderstands suffering in the wake of violence as trauma. It is the resonance between these two that makes thismode of acknowledgement so powerful. This led me to coin the phrase the standing language of knowing andacknowledging suffering in the occupied territory. Calling this a language means that it comes into beingthrough speech, acts and practice: The entire thesis bears witness to the dissonance between this language andthe experience of being a detainee’s wife. Nowhere did this appear more crudely than in the bored shrugamong international aid workers, Palestinian refugees or detainees’ organisations: “The wives? Why studythem at all? Why not study those who have really been afflicted?” The standing language provides thebackdrop for understanding the ordinary as the scene on which life as a detainee’s wife comes into being.Chapters IV and V explored aspects fundamental to the women’s actualisation of an ordinaryimbued by absence. In Chapter IV I argued that the domestic becomes uncanny through how the void left bythe husband’s absence is actualised in everything that cannot be expressed as either symbolic representations ofimages or smells, or in words. What is distinct about this actualisation of that void is that it is repeated, butonly just so. This became clear in the investigation in Chapter V of the lived temporality of the detainees’wives. I concluded that the void of the domestic is reflected temporally in how the men’s absence from theeveryday of the wives is constantly actualised because of the practices these women engage in to comply withthe securitisation procedures intrinsic to the incarceration of Palestinians in Israel. Chapter V adressed howincarceration engenders a split in the conjugate. I analysed this split through Strathern’s notion of the cut asgenerative of new relations and fractal identities. Chapters IV and V thus conveyed how it is the organisationof space and time that reconfigures the detainees’ wives’ ordinary as uncanny. How can we relate these findingsto violent events, and what does the ordinary mean under such circumstances?The challenge in responding to this question is that violence here is not encompassed in the criteriaby which we normally judge something to be violent. The violence lived by the detainees’ wives belongs to tworealms. One is violence deriving from the violence their husbands engaged in and which saw them detained inIsrael. This form of violence is actualised through the constant reminders of the husband elicited inconversations, in the organisation of the home and not least with regard to temporality. Secondly, there is theindirect violence that is part of everyday life for the detainees’ wives. This is the structural violence they sharewith all Palestinians in the occupied territory: check points, legal discrimination and the impenetrablebureaucracy of permissions, law suits and applications that are never closed. In this manner, structural violenceis internal to the lives of Palestinians. The analysis in the thesis of how affect in the wake of violence isconfigured in the actualisation of an ordinary provides an attempt to think and write anthropologically about204


violence as something more than an event and its effects.The exploration of these actualisations of the ordinary in Chapters IV and V produced one of themost important insights of this thesis. The reason why the ordinary becomes uncanny for the detainees’ wiveslies in the register of time. Duration is definitive of the way in which the violence intrinsic to the entiresituation of how the enduring but non-linear void caused by a husband’s incarceration is worked into theordinary. The non-linear absence actualises the configuration of affect described above. This configuration isconstitutive of how the ordinary is organised temporally and spatially through how a living room, for instance,is the place in the public sphere in which national belonging and loyalty must constantly be on display.Whereas these actualisations of the ordinary are political and saturated with indirect violence, they are alsofamiliar. The term ādi (normal, ordinary) expresses the familiarity of violence in the occupied territory. Eventhough the frequently used expression ādi makes violence appear seductively normal, no Palestinian is fooledinto believing that the ādi that is their everyday is only familiar and homely. In this sense, Freud’s term‘uncanny’ embraces what ādi means in the occupied territory. The fact that ‘uncanny’ brings with it a baggagefrom the discipline of psychology is not coincidental in the context of this thesis. The uncanny is somethingthat is felt and that therefore encapsulates how affect is reconfigured in the families of detainees. In this sense,the terms ‘affect’ and ‘uncanny’ bridge the analytical gap between the configuration of affect resulting from thestanding language and the figures who breathe this affect in their relations to their kin, their husbands, theirchildren, and ultimately in relation to their understanding of themselves as women.From a focus on the temporal and domestic spheres that make up the ordinary of the detainees’wives, Chapters VI, VII and VIII addressed the relationships just mentioned. The pivotal findings in myexamination of these relations are that non-linear absence is worked into them in different ways. In ChapterVI, I concluded that incarceration accentuates the closeness of the families of detainees. One interlocutor,Layla, stated that ’hard things make people closer’. My analysis confirmed Layla’s words. However, I attemptedto separate the implicit positive evaluation of these words by examining what it means for the detainees’ wivesthat the families become closer in the wake of non-linear absence. Aided by Bergson’s notions of the whole ofobligation, contraction and dilation, I concluded that incarceration actualises the enforcement ofresponsibility, control and protection, aspects that form part of Palestinian notions of kinship. Theactualisation of these three aspects causes a contraction of personal space around the detainees’ wives. I arguedthat this analytical outcome must be understood in the light of the Palestinian meta-narrative, in which thefamily is expressed as the most significant stronghold against the occupation. My research confirms thestrength of the Palestinian families I encountered. This strength nonetheless comes at the cost of a contractionof the space around the detainees’ wives. This contraction can be seen as an actualisation of the virtual wholeof ‘obligation’ that underlies the notion of Palestinian kinship. Bergson’s image of the inverted cone served toexpress how we can comprehend the situation of the detainees’ wives as a contracted state of their duration.With this contracted state of duration, the understanding of the ideal Palestinian family collapses into how itis lived, causing closeness to close in on the detainees’ wives.The way in which incarceration alters the conjugal relationship is distinct from this accentuation ofPalestinian notions of kinship. Whereas this finding may seem banal, it opposes the Palestinian meta-205


narrative, whose premise is that the families are bound to practice umūd, that is, to stand tall in the face ofaffliction. One interlocutor, Aisha, expressed this national obligation in a letter to her detained husband: ‘Iwish I could sacrifice as you have sacrificed for us’. Since my analytical premise is that there is no a priori innerto subjectivity, and that the personal and the collective are mutually constitutive, Aisha’s expression is both aspeech act and a description. Her speech act conveys the fact that she is indeed enacting umūd whilst herhusband is incarcerated. Yet from my personal knowledge of Aisha of how she feels in parallel with umūd, itis clear that her description of her wish to sacrifice contains the loneliness she also feels because her husband –albeit present in the lettered conjugality which is how they now relate to each other – is absent from thesharing of mundane tasks, joys, sorrows or obligations, of raising children or building a new house. The voidleft by the imprisoned husband is, according to national discourse, filled up by the pride and honour of beingrelated to a heroic Palestinian. However, proposing an analytical continuum with umūd at the one end andCavell’s premise that the body is the field of the expression of the soul at the other end, I argue thatdifferentiations of an unknowing relation imbued by doubt about the other appear in the cut between theincarcerated husband and his wife. This unknowing relation appears because the possibilities for the conjugateto read each other are reconfigured during the indeterminate absence of a husband from the everyday. Thewomen’s letters to their husbands have generated this insight: rather than addressing the person who is knownto them, the receiver of their letters is the generic, heroic detainee. In this way, national markers displace apersonal language and become the way in which the incarcerated conjugates ‘know’ each other.My analysis questioned whether a marriage is possible during incarceration by engaging criticallywith how the conjugate is either perceived to be unaffected by imprisonment or made impossible due to anabsent body. Whether or not the parties who endure this situation are able to acknowledge that theirpossibilities of knowing each other have been changed, a collective acknowledgement that a captive conjugatehas been altered during incarceration would be to admit Palestinian defeat. I ended the chapter stating thatthe public denial that incarceration affects the conjugal relation represents an attempt to denounce theskepticism that is embodied by the captive conjugate. As such the unknowing relation between the spousesand the doubt it engenders in both the other and in the Palestinian struggle for statehood encapsulates themeaning of skepticism in the sense of profound doubt. Therefore, incarceration in the duration of a singularconjugate, and incarceration of Palestinian men in general being imbued by a non-linear temporality causesabsence due to incarceration to be imbued by the skeptical structure represented by Shakeaspearean tragedy:Doubt endures and the only means of denying it or ‘turning it stone’, as did Othello with Desdemona, is byexpressing and enacting umūd.In Chapter VIII I argued that the conjugal aspect of the women’s sense of womanhood is eclipsedby motherhood, experientially as well as in language and the practices the women engage in. The chapter thusmade apparent the configuration of affect that takes place in the face of incarceration. Feelings related to theconjugate are reconfigured as feelings concerning the women’s children. However, whereas marriage in theoccupied territory cannot be comprehended outside its reproductive potential, I suggested that the slide fromwifehood into motherhood occurs for two reasons. First, the Palestinian mother as a national symbol is anacknowledged figure available for the detainees’ wives to occupy. Secondly, an alteration from being both a206


wife and a mother to solely being a mother is enabled because the task of raising children fills up those of thewomen’s waking hours that are left after attending to the practices they have to engage in order to stitchtogether their relationships to their incarcerated husbands. I argued that we may think of motherhood as apotential recovery of an ordinary for the detainees’ wives because being a mother rather than a wife livingwithout her husband offers a refuge, a safe place in the absence of the husband. The recovery of the ordinary is,however, not the healing path to a redemptive aftermath, as is projected in psychological understandings oftrauma. For the detainees’ wives, the ordinary is simultaneously ādi (normal, ordinary) and uncanny becausethe violence that has coloured their lives is never over. It is itself ordinary.IX.II Uncanny AffectMy first analytical concern was how affect is configured by non-linear absence due to incarceration Throughan analysis of the realms and relations that make up the detainees’ wives’ ordinary I have traced the ways inwhich affect is configured around the detainees’ wives during the absence of their husbands from what used tobe their shared everyday. I have used Freud’s notion of the uncanny to coin this configuration. Whereas Freudand others use this notion in different ways (cf. Cavell 1988; Brogård Kristensen 2007: 62; Freud 1919(2003); Bear 2007), I have been concerned with the uncanny in the sense of an indiscernible differencebetween the familiar and the unfamiliar, the homely and the unhomely. In the occupied territory, the uncannyis implied in the colloquial use of the term ādi that is used as a response to questions like ‘how are you, howare things going, what’s new?’ Mostly, people will answer ādi no matter what has occurred in their lives, be ita dramatic event, a joyous week or the slow grind of mundane violence. The fact that such events are situatedcontingently in the register of the ordinary conveys how the unfamiliar becomes familiar under certaincircumstances. To live as a detainee’s wife is to be engulfed by such circumstances.The concept of the uncanny is also used to describe traumatic memories that are repressed butreturn in a feeling of the uncanny (Freud 1919 (2003); Brogård Kristensen 2007). This meaning of the termdoes not apply to the situation of the detainees’ families. Rather than repressed memories in the shape oftraumatic experiences that keep returning to haunt its victim, I argued that the women and their affinal andconjugal kin contain knowledge of what it means to live a life married to an absent husband. The differencebetween containing and repressing memories is, I propose, a difference of temporality: Repressed memoriesare past events that have occured but keep returning in the memory of the afflicted person. Intrinsic to thisunderstanding is the idea that ‘something happened’, and whilst it keeps returning it has in fact passed with thelinear progression of time. Containment, on the other hand, can be said to be non-linear since it does notrepresent a memory of an event that belongs to the past. Rather, containment connotes the uncanny, enduringpresence of knowledge that forms part of life rather than causing a rupture of that life. In the case of myinterlocutors, they and the relations around their conjugate, contain the knowledge of how incarcerationaffects them in their qarabah (closeness). Das’s notion of how poisonous knowledge is swallowed by themolested women of the Partition between India and Pakistan resonates with how people know the hardshipendured by Palestinian detainees’ wives albeit without expressing this knowledge. Al-Shafi’i’s poetic notion ofthe storing of longing in clay jars (see Chapter VIII) aptly captures the sense of containing tacit knowledgethat has the potential to unsettle the idea of the Palestinian family as bearing any kind of violence. The207


configuration of affect as an uncanny part of the ordinary is therefore part of the life of detainees’ wives. It isthis uncanniness that sustains the eclipse of the conjugate and the elicitation of the Palestinian family.IX.III Skeptical Relations Actualised During Non-linear AbsenceThe second concern in this thesis has been to investigate how uncanny affect as part rather than rupture of theordinary configures or reconfigures relationships. I have documented how detainees’ wives’ sense of time andplace is saturated with uncanny affect. Moreover, I have shown how affinal and consanguineal relationshipsclose in on the women during the absences of their husbands. A husband’s absence implies that what is left ofthe captive conjugate is an empty shell whose meaning in the life of the detainee’s wife is further eclipsed bythe national symbol of the Palestinian mother and the actual mother of the detainee’s children. What doesthis configuration of affect mean for how the detainees’ wives find themselves at home in the world? I haveargued that for my interlocutors it engenders a feeling of doubt in the world and in the relations upon whichtheir selves are hinged. Bringing up the issue of doubt I entered a discussion of skepticism. For Cavell,skepticism is intrinsic to what he terms a masculine way of knowing (Cavell 1987: 16). A masculineunderstanding of knowledge resonates with the modern attraction of absolute certainty, objectivity andneutrality. Skepticism is the struggle for this in tandem with the knowledge that it is unobtainable (ibid.).Cavell grounds male skepticism in the question, ‘How can I know that my children are mine?’ How can he besure when it is not the male body that gives birth to his children?Cavell ponders where this leaves the question of gender and skepticism and claims that, whereasmen’s skepticism hinges upon doubt about whether his children are his, women’s skepticism arises with regardto the identity of the father of their children (1987: 17). Applied to my field data, I do not take this asreferring to a sense that the women do not know who are the fathers of their children. This, in the context ofmy interlocutors’ moral worlds, is not a question since there is only one possibility: their husbands. Rather, onthe basis of my analysis I take the question to concern the reconfigured possibility to read the other that isentailed in the cut of the conjugate’s physical co-presence. As I have described, doubt about the other simplybecomes part of being the wife of a detainee. In this sense, Cavell’s understanding of female skepticism appearsto resonate with how a fundamental doubt about the husband, the world and the future becomes part ofliving a life as the free part of a captive conjugate.It is in this sense that the non-linear duration of incarceration configures the captive conjugate andits attendant affect into something uncanny. The link between uncanniness and skepticism is entailed in theunsettled temporality of a prison sentence and in how this unsettledness is reflected in the actualisation of anordinary both spatially and temporally. This conclusion sheds light on why Shakespearean tragedy mayilluminate the incarcerated conjugate: rather than a tragic ending emblematic of the Greek tragedies evolvingaround conflict and paradoxes inherent in family and kin relations, Shakespearean tragedies are characterisedby a skeptical structure. According to Cavell, the tensions invoked in the tragedy are not resolved through atragic ending, but rather remain in the form of penetrating skepticism. The enduring skepticism is anaccompaniment to the uncanniness that, I have argued, is actualised as enduring, temporally undecidedincarceration. The elicited image of the proud Palestinian family contains in its shadow the skepticism anduncanniness inherent in the captive conjugate. As such the Palestinian family is both an unwavering208


stronghold and a container of skepticism.IX.IV Acknowledging Unsettled and Unsettling Forms of LifeSince this thesis’ third point of gravity has been how acknowlegdment is either granted or withheld fromcertain forms of life and suffering it is relevant to ask: what is the contribution of the knowledge shaped in thecourse of my study in terms of acknowledgement of suffering?To my interlocutors, my study and the resulting thesis offers little more than that they know that Iam knowledgeable about what it feels like to be in their situation. From their responses to my study and myengagement with them, however, I know that they considered the actual research and the resulting thesisabout them an acknowledgement of the lives they live. However, since acknowledgement implies that I actupon my knowledge, it appears evident that I should communicate my findings to the psychosocialorganisations working with secondary victims in the occupied territory. What I would communicate is a callto hesistancy regarding the criteria I have shown to inform the evaluation of suffering. Based on my fieldwork,I suggest that knowledge and acknowledgement of suffering can occur through ‘allowing the other to happento oneself ’. This form of acknowledgement was discussed in Chapter III and Chapter VII and rests on areconfiguration of acknowledgement from being primary visual and verbal to comprising affective registers ofknowledge too.With regard to anthropology specifically, it is my hope that this thesis will be read as anengagement with Das’s discussion about the potential of certain forms of violence to enunciate the limits offorms of life and thus of humanity (Das 1998). The violence Das refers to is the brutal, sexualised andhumiliating violence inflicted upon women during the 1947 partition between India and Pakistan (Das 2007,Chapter Four). The findings of my research have, however, made me wonder whether violence of a less brutalkind, or less in violation of fundamental moral codes, can contain a similar threat to what it means to behuman? My thesis points towards an affirmative answer to this question. I have suggested that the forms ofsuffering I have adressed here, namely those implied by being the wife of a Palestinian detainee, are imbuedwith a destructive potential caused by uncanniness. This potential resides in non-linear but enduring modes ofsuffering that question just how normal indiscernible violence can become in a life before it fails to be sociallyaccepted as a human form of life. I have no answer to this question. But my thesis suggests that it is the mereposing of the question, the fact that it could arise and the grounds that fertilised it, that enunciates the limitsto what forms of life can be contained while still fitting into a Palestinian national narrative. I suggest that thereason this question is contained rather than enunciated, and that the tragic structure of this containeduncanniness is that of skepticism rests on a simple but perpetual fact: non-linear suffering has no end.209


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AbstractThis thesis investigates the configuration of affect in and around Palestinian families of detainees whoserve multi-year sentences in Israeli detention. The aim of the thesis is to reconsider relations on the backdropof non-linear time. The findings are based on nine months of fieldwork in the occupied Palestinian territoryand four months of fieldwork among European donors, experts on trauma and violence, and internationalNGOs with engagements in the occupied territory. The thesis explains the interstices between the experiencesof living a life as married to a long-term detainee and the understanding and acknowledgement of such a lifein the occupied territory and in international discourses of suffering too.Without subscribing to an a priori definition of the ordinary, the thesis explores what the ordinary canbe said to mean for the Palestinian women, who are married to detainees. With the women’s everyday as apoint of departure, the investigation of the ordinary is organised around the spheres that make up their ordinaries:The domestic sphere, lived temporality, kin relations, the conjugal relation and selfhood as motherhood.The empirical investigation into each of these spheres and how they are entangled shows how affect isconfigured in and around the wives of the detainees.The ethnographic concern is the women as part of the conjugal relation. Choosing this most fundamentalrelation as the locus of inquiry interrogates how violence is configured as part of the ordinary ratherthan as an event that occurs after which everything returns to the normal state of affairs. The thesis is an ethnographyof how violence over time is woven into the quilt of social relations, of intimacy, of expectations andpublic notions of what it means to have experienced violence and how it is acknowledged.Analytically the ambition is to examine the texture of an absence that appears to leave nothing but a welcomemark of honour and pride among the wives of the incarcerated. As the thesis demonstrates, however, absencereverberates in even the smallest part of these women’s lives. But, this tremble of absence meets only one of theproxies of suffering that are identified as criteria for being granted a place in what I term the standing languageof knowing and acknowledging suffering in the occupied territory. The standing language comes into beingthrough resonance between a Palestinian meta-narrative about suffering and a global psychological discourseaccording to which the plight of the Palestinians is understood as ‘trauma’. Central to the standing languageare the criteria in place to evaluate suffering. These criteria are relation, event and immediacy. The prisoners’wives meet only the criterion of relation through their connection to someone who is dually considered to bea Palestinian hero and a traumatised victim. Whereas this relation includes them into the standing languagethey fail to meet the criteria of having themselves lived through a violent event that occurs in the immediacyof a moment. The women’s lives are thereby configured as being both acknowledged as a reason for legitimatesuffering and simultaneously as unaffected. This is how the standing language configures the affect aroundwhat it means to be a detainees’s wife and as such it is the context of living a life married to a detainee serving along-term sentence in Israeli detention.The thesis asks how absence caused by incarceration is endured and actualised and finally how it disappearsinto the weave of the ordinary. To answer these questions the thesis draws on the writings of MarilynStrathern, Gilles Deleuze and Henri Bergson and their analytical approaches to relations, difference and dura-227


tion. The prism of analysis is, however, grounded in the work of Veena Das and Stanley Cavell whose writingsenable the conceptualisation of violence’s work on relations.Whereas the tension between attending to configuration on the one hand and lived experience on theother hand appear to map onto a gap between the public and the personal, the thesis shows how the one isconstitutive of the other; that is, private experience is actualised on the grounds of configurations of collectiveaffect and understandings of what the inner might be and how it should be managed. Rather than claiming tosolve the tension between the above-mentioned approaches, the thesis bears witness to the productivity ofallowing tension to reverberate in the analysis.The thesis’ theoretical contribution concerns three main areas that intersect throughout in changingconstellations of figure and ground (Strathern 2004: 81): how non-linear time in the form of absence mouldssocial relations; how this absence shapes affect; and how the acknowledgement of suffering is granted or denied.In addition, the thesis speaks to standing discussions in anthropology about the relationship betweenviolence and everyday life, a relationship that translates into a concern for the configuration of the ordinary.Pondering the ordinary in the light of absence caused by incarceration a basic question this thesis seeks to answeris under what circumstances can the ordinary become uncanny in the occupied territory?228


ResuméDenne afhandling belyser hvordan affekt konfigureres i og omkring palæstinensiske pårørende til fængslede mænd,der langvarigt, og ofte på ubestemt tid, afsoner domme i israelske fængsler. Affekt forstås her som cirkulationen affølelser i rummet mellem det personlige og det offentlige, eller kollektive. Afhandlingen undersøger ligeledeshvordan nære relationer konfigureres i lyset af den ikke-lineære tid som afsoningernes ubestemmelige varighed bærermed sig. Afhandlingen hviler på ni måneders etnografisk feltarbejde på den besatte palæstinensiske Vestbred samt firemåneders feltarbejde blandt europæiske og nordamerikanske donorer, eksperter i traumer og vold samt internationaleNgo’er, der arbejder i eller sammen med partnerorganisationer på Vestbredden. Sigtet med afhandlingen er at kastelys over sprækkerne mellem erfaringer med at leve som hustru til fængslede palæstinensiske mænd og forståelsen samtanerkendelsen af disse erfaringer både på Vestbredden samt i globale diskurser om lidelse.Studiet analyserer betydningen af ’det ordinære’ for kvinder der er gift med palæstinensiske fanger. Dettegøres uden at antage, at det ordinære eksisterer a priori. Med udgangspunkt i kvindernes hverdag afklares hvad ’detordinære’ betyder og hvordan det konstitueres i de sfærer og relationer, der udgør omdrejningspunktet for kvinderneshverdag. Afhandlingen er således struktureret omkring den hjemlige sfære, den temporale sfære, familierelationer,ægteskabelige relationer samt kvindernes selvforståelse i set i lyset af diskurser om moderskab. Den empiriskeundersøgelse af hver af disse sfærer samt deres indbyrdes forhold belyser hvordan affekt konfigureres i og omkringhustruer til palæstinensiske fanger.Mit etnografiske anliggende er disse kvinder som del af en ægteskabelig relation. Valget af dette mestfundamentale forhold som analytisk tyngdepunkt muliggør en undersøgelse af hvordan vold over tid konfigureressom en del af det ordinære snarere end en begivenhed, der finder sted, hvorefter hverdagen finder sin ’normale’ rytmeigen. På den baggrund udgør afhandlingen en etnografi om måden hvorpå vold væves ind i sociale relationer,intimitet samt forståelser af hvad det indebærer at have oplevet vold og hvordan dette enten gives eller nægtesanerkendelse.Den analytiske ambition med afhandlingen er at undersøge de tilfangetagne mænds fravær, der påoverfladen ikke synes at aktualisere andet end følelser af ære og stolthed blandt deres hustruer. Afhandlingen viserdog at dette fravær resonerer i selv den mindste del af kvindernes liv. Problemet med fraværets resonans er, at det kunlever op til et af de kriterier, gennem hvilke lidelse anerkendes i de besatte palæstinensiske områder. Denne gængsemåde at anerkende lidelse på benævner jeg som det stående sprogbrug for at kende og anerkende lidelse i de besattepalæstinensiske områder [’The Standing Language for Knowing and Acknowledging Suffering in the OccupiedPalestinian Territory]. Det stående sprogbrug er således de sproglige forudsætninger for italesættelse og anerkendelseaf lidelse, og det aktualiseres gennem resonans mellem en palæstinensisk meta-narrativ om lidelse samt en global,psykologisk diskurs ifølge hvilken palæstinensernes situation anskues som et kollektivt traume. Gennemgående fordet stående sprogbrug er de kriterier gennem hvilke lidelse anerkendes. Disse kriterier er relation, begivenhed ogøjeblikkelighed. Erfaringerne med at være hustru til de tilfangetagne mænd imødekommer dog som nævnt kun et afdisse kriterier, nemlig relation, gennem deres relation til deres ægtefælle der både anskues som værendepalæstinensiske helte samt traumatiserede ofre for eller udøvere af vold. Selvom denne relation sikrer kvinderneserfaringer en plads i det stående sprog anerkendes disse erfaringer ikke fuldgyldigt da kvinderne ikke selv hargennemlevet en voldelig begivenhed, afgrænset i tid og rum. Kvindernes erfaringer anskues dermed paradoksalt både229


som en legitim årsag til lidelse og som uberørte af den vold der relationelt tegner dem. Således konfigurerer detstående sprog den affekt der vedrører betydningen af at være hustru til en tilfangetaget mand. Denne konfigurationudgør konteksten for livet som hustru til en mand, der er indespærret over årtier i Israel.Det centrale spørgsmål i afhandlingen er hvordan fravær, forårsaget af fængsling udholdes og aktualiseressamt hvordan det forsvinder umærkeligt ind i konstitueringen af ’det ordinære’. Afhandlingen svarer på dettespørgsmål ved hjælp af en analytisk optik der tager udgangspunkt i Marilyn Strathern, Henri Bergson og GillesDeleuze’s respektive arbejde med relationer, forskelle og temporalitet. Den primære analytiske ramme forafhandlingen baserer sig dog på Veena Das og Stanley Cavell’s teorier vedrørende begrebsliggørelsen af forholdetmellem vold, relationer og det ordinære.Spændingen mellem at fokusere på konfiguration på den ene side og erfaring på den anden side resonerertilsyneladende (med) forholdet mellem den kollektive og den personlige sfære. Afhandlingen viser dog, at disse to erindbyrdes konstituerende, således at personlig erfaring aktualiseres på baggrund af konfigurationen af kollektiv affektog opfattelser af hvad det personlige består i og hvordan dette skal håndteres i forhold til kollektivet. Afhandlingenløser ikke spændingen mellem disse tilgange, men den viser at analytisk spænding er produktiv i forsøget på at forståmin etnografi.Afhandlingens teoretiske bidrag vedrører tre temaer der skiftevis optræder som figur og grund (Strathern2004: 80): Det undersøges hvordan ikke-lineær tid i form af vedvarende fravær former sociale relationer; i trådhermed analyseres hvordan fravær konfigurerer affekt og derudover afhandles det hvordan anerkendelse af lidelsegives eller nægtes bestemte former for liv og lidelse. Afhandlingen adresserer derved debatter i nyere antropologiangående forholdet mellem vold og hverdagsliv. Denne debat kan forstås som en interesse for konfigurationen af ’detordinære’. Afhandlingens analyse af det ordinære i skyggen af fravær forårsaget af indespærring guides derfor afSigmund Freud’s spørgsmål: Under hvilke omstændigheder kan det ordinære aktualiseres som samtidig værendefremmed og velkendt?230

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