Palestine and the Power of the Archive with Gil Z. Hochberg

In this episode, our guest is Gil Z. Hochberg, who will be speaking about how we can develop a sophisticated approach to thinking about Palestine and Israel through the concept of “the Archive.”

Gil Z. Hochberg is the Ransford Professor of Hebrew and Visual Studies, Comparative Literature, and Middle East Studies at Columbia University where she is also chair of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies. She is the author of numerous books, the most recent of which is Becoming Palestine: Toward an Archival Imagination of the Future, which was published by Duke University Press in 2021.

In this episode, Gil and I will think through the importance of archives – both historical archives themselves, and the archive as an idea – in the context of Israel and Palestine. As Gil points out in her book, the question of archives raises crucial issues about Israel and Palestine, developments in Palestinian culture, and the ongoing conflict at large. As she suggests, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long been dominated by the archive of the past: historians from the 1980s onwards have unearthed archival evidence of the Naqba, the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948, which has shaped the ongoing debates on the politics of the region. But is there a limit to the political power of this archival knowledge? As we’ve seen, even though we know about the Naqba we are not exactly closer to any kind of justice, or political resolution of the conflict. So as Gil suggests, we might speak about the limits of the archive of history and start to think about what it means to create an archive of the future.

This is obviously an issue that is of deep interest to me on an intellectual level, on a historical level, and also in terms of thinking through the politics of the conflict and Israeli and Palestinian culture, which is truthfully one of the reasons I reached out to Gil to be on the podcast. But I also think there is something deep to consider here: In what ways can the idea of the archive contribute our thinking about Palestine and Israel? What does it mean to talk about archives of the future? And in this light, how and why does history matter?

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