Perspectives on the Endless Nakba: Palestinian Oral History and Traumatic Memory
oral history
physical handicaps

The author examines Palestinian oral history from the end of the British Occupation or Mandate (14 May 1948) to the present in terms of the traumatic memory of the Nakba and its impact both on immigrants in the Palestinian Diaspora, and on Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In light of more recent research into “traumatic memories,” it is now apparent that beyond the remembrances of specific autobiographic and personal events that Palestinians experienced, there are other important aspects of traumatic memories: the impact on peoples’ feelings and emotions not only affects the memories of material and personal losses such as homes and gardens, land, photographs, family artifacts, and loved ones, but the intensity of those losses at the time of the trauma affects the emotions over time, more than “snap shot’ or first-time memories of the past. Along with the much studied factual information of the Nakba, we now learn that the traumatic memory perpetuates the losses creating a condition of continuous actions or endless memories for those who suffered through the Nakba. Furthermore, comparative studies of global massacres or disasters find that many parallel effects exist contrary to earlier findings.

Author biography: 

Thomas M. Ricks, a former visiting professor of history at Birzeit University (1983–85), taught Middle East history for thirty-five years at Macalester College, Georgetown University, Villanova University, and the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to authoring numerous academic articles and translating and editing collections of modern Persian prose, belle lettres, and poetry, he is author of Notables, Merchants, and Shaykhs of Southern Iran and Its Ports (Gorgias Press, 2012) and editor of Turbulent Times in Palestine: The Diaries of Khalil Totah, 1886–1955 (Institute for Palestine Studies, 2009). An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies’ fifth historical studies conference, “Seventy Years since the Palestinian Nakba,” held in May 2018 in Doha, Qatar.