Freedom to Imagine: Reflections on the First Palestine Writes Literature Festival

Originally scheduled for March 2020, the first Palestine Writes Literature Festival was held virtually in December 2020. The festival brought together authors, artists, activists, scholars, and publishers, offering a dynamic environment for attendees to reimagine the space and time of Palestine, foregrounding Palestinian presence in the past, present, and future. The festival’s aim “to imagine a world we want” asserts the centrality of Palestinian political futurity – the liberation of Palestinian imagination from the confines of settler colonial space-time that presents itself as natural, neutral, and permanent. Drawing participants from across multiple regions, languages, and artistic genres, the festival disrupted the ostensible boundaries and binaries of Palestinian writing (inside/outside; Arabic/non- Arabic; literary/non-literary, etc.). The broadening of the Palestinian canon to include non-Arabic writing by exilic authors, however, also provokes the demand to protect against the potential compression of Palestinian identity into a narrative of diasporic “statelessness.” In this review, Amanda Batarseh interrogates what it means for Palestine Writes to imagine Palestinian futurity when those voices doing the imagining are dispersed and subject to varying degrees of censure and threat.

Author biography: 

Amanda Batarseh is an assistant professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at the University of California, San Diego. Her recent work focuses on the analysis of place-centered narration in Palestinian contemporary literature across a variety of genres and forms from speculative fiction and the historical novel to the graphic novel and cookbook.