Sacred Space/Contested Place: Intergenerational Memory and the Shifting Meanings of the Shrine/Tomb of Joseph
Special Feature: 
settler colonialism
oral history

David Marshall examines the case of Maqam Yusuf (the Shrine of Joseph, commonly referred to as Joseph’s Tomb in English), a contested religious site near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Often called a “microcosm” of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the shrine has long been viewed as a site of religious intolerance, marked by regular violent confrontations between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers. Such a view obscures deeply rooted traditions of multireligious shrine visitation and veneration practiced by Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Samaritans at Maqam Yusuf and other sites throughout Palestine, traditions that themselves predate the arrival of Abrahamic monotheism. This article presents an alternative perspective, namely, that conflict over the shrine is not one of inherent religious rivalry but is rather a conflict of settler-colonial acquisition and resistance. Going further, this paper considers the violence of erasure, and the politics of forgetting as a form of resistance. Drawing on multigenerational oral histories, Marshall charts the shifting meanings of Maqam Yusuf against the changing geopolitical dynamics of the Israeli occupation, highlighting the silences and gaps in generational memory that surround the site. In particular, the article demonstrates how Maqam Yusuf transformed from a site where women practiced and fashioned their social and religious selves, to a site where young men perform a resistant masculinity

Author biography: 

David J. (Sandy) Marshall is an associate professor of geography and also teaches in the International and Global Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies programs at Elon University in North Carolina. He would like to acknowledge support from the Palestinian American Research Center, Elon University’s faculty research and development funding, and its Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society. He also thanks Nadia Mansour, Aysom Iyrot, Amer Al-Qobbaj, Loay Abu Alsaud, Penelope Mitchell, Alex Winder, the Khaleefeh family, and all those who participated in or supported this research for their assistance.