Voices of the Nakba: A Living History of Palestine

Diana Allan

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**Winner of an English PEN Award 2021***

During the 1948 war more than 750,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were violently expelled from their homes by Zionist militias. The legacy of the Nakba - which translates to 'disaster' or 'catastrophe' - lays bare the violence of the ongoing Palestinian plight.

Voices of the Nakba collects the stories of first-generation Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, documenting a watershed moment in the history of the modern Middle East through the voices of the people who lived through it.

The interviews, with commentary from leading scholars of Palestine and the Middle East, offer a vivid journey into the history, politics and culture of Palestine, defining Palestinian popular memory on its own terms in all its plurality and complexity.


'Through the pages of this book the reader can hear, feel, experience and understand more about the Nakba than by reading any other book on the subject'

'Moving and thoughtful [...] With their silences, ellipses and jags of storytelling, the refugee voices invite us to imagine the lives torn asunder by the violence of the Nakba

‘Brings to life the experiences of ordinary Palestinians in pre-1948 Palestine and the traumatic experience of war and exile, written by leading scholars in the field. Of special value in this volume is the section on control and resistance during the Mandate dealing with policing, and narratives of rebellion’

'A truly impressive collection [...] An opportunity to reconsider whether what the Palestinians faced was victimhood rather than an act of colonialism'

'Imaginatively curated and framed [...] A brilliant contribution to the current moment as the world finally understands the true nature of the Palestinian struggle'

'The stories gathered here are the fruit of perseverant gathering. Their careful, deliberate, loving translation bear the sense and sensualities of Palestinian existence. 'Voices of the Nakba' shows how and why those who will not forget will never be forgotten

'The oral history of colonised people is a lifeline against the coloniser's official history with its violent erasure. This excellent book centres the marginalised voices of Palestinians, reflecting the rich and complex tapestry of their experiences'

'A comprehensive, illuminating, and moving work of scholarship, which is also, quite simply, a work of art'

‘A monumental achievement [...] Enhancing the use of oral history as a research methodology, this book is a major addition to Nakba Studies and the living history of modern Palestine. A must-read for those interested in the roots of the Palestinian refugee question and a just future for Palestine.’


Diana Allan is An associate Professor of Anthropology at McGill University. She is a filmmaker and the co-founder of the Nakba Archive. Her ethnography, Refugees of the Revolution: Experiences of Palestinian Exile, (Stanford University Press, 2013) won the MEMO Palestine academic book award and the American Anthropological Association, Middle East Section Award.


PART I: Life in Pre-1948 Palestine
1. Village Life in Palestine - Rochelle Davis
2. Of Forests and Trees: City Life in 1930s Palestine - Sherene Seikaly
3. The Margin and the Centre in Narrating Pre-1948 Palestine - Amirah Silmi
4. Mandated Memory: The Schooling of Palestine in Nicola Ziadeh’s and Anis Sayigh’s Pre-1948 Recollections - Dyala Hamzah
PART II: The British Mandate and Palestinian and Arab Resistance
5. Motivations and Tensions of Palestinian Police Service under British Rule - Alex Winder
6. Storying the Great Arab Revolt: Narratives of Resistance During 1936–39 - Jacob Norris
7. Songs of Resistance - Ted Swedenburg
PART III: War and Ethnic Cleansing
8. The Roots of the Nakba - Salman Abu Sitta
9. Four Villages, Four Stories: Ethnic Cleansing Massacres in al-Jalil - Saleh Abdel Jawad
10. Remembering the Fight - Laila Parsons

PART IV: Flight and Exile
11. The Dispossession of Lydda - Lena Jayyusi
12. Scars of the Mind: Trauma, Gender and Counter-Memories of the Nakba - Ruba Salih
13. The Politics of Listening - Cynthia Kreichati


Oral History in Palestinian Studies by Rosemary Sayigh



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