Witnessing as Worldbuilding: Imagining Repair and Decolonization in Palestinian Visual Culture


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Modern Culture and Media


What does it mean to bear witness in contemporary Palestinian visual culture? This dissertation analyzes and historicizes Palestinian films and artworks that reconfigure witnessing as an imaginative act of decolonization, in which testimony to injustice is joined with reparative speculations. It contextualizes a turn toward strategies of fabulation, speculation, and opacity as a critical response to the political limitations of humanitarianism and the aesthetic restrictions of documentary realism, correlated constraints bolstered by the rise of NGOs in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and by transformations in the local and global media landscapes during the 1990s. At the same time, it contends that elements of worldbuilding have been immanent to Palestinian witnessing, if often overlooked by scholars, since the earliest self-representations of their 1948 dispossession.