PalREAD: Drones & Clones in Palestine withLindsey Moore

30 Jun 2020 - 2.00PM

Maps can be repositories of cultural memory, a way of situating ourselves in time and space, and guides to a possible future. But they can also be used to exclude, and to rewrite history to erase shared memory.

It is this idea of re-mapping that the people behind literature and history project PalREAD are seeking to address. The project launched in 2018, the brainchild of scholar Refqa Abu-Remaileh. The project, she says, “seeks to re-trace and re-gather the scattered fragments of the story of Palestinian literature”. 

PalREAD are launching a new series of globally accessible readings and lectures titled “Re-locating the Map,” hosted by series organiser Ruth Abou Rached and featuring four prominent writers and scholars of Palestinian literature, is being launched. Set to unfold across four live online events, it marks a chance for a wider public to engage with the project. 

Drones and Clones, on 30 June will map the future, as Lindsey Moore, a lecturer at Lancaster University in the UK, explores how speculative fiction can re-envision Palestine. Dystopia - or an inverted utopia - is a common construct in Anglo-European science fiction.

But in Palestinian literature, Moore said, dystopia is different: "In Thomas More’s paradigmatic text of 1516, Utopia is artificially isolated from neighbours that it forcefully subdues and disenfranchises. Sound familiar? Palestinian writers evoke dischronotopia: multiple, hierarchised time-space configurations in one tiny geographical place.

"You can’t go to the West Bank - if you’re privileged enough to get in - and miss the managed discrepancy: there’s a refugee camp on one side of the road and an Israeli settlement on the other; the skyscrapers of Tel Aviv are visible from the hills of the West Bank." 

In Moore's conception of a dischronotopia, there are many microclimate dystopias, and characters cannot see each other across time and space.

This is true of Palestinian science fiction stories such as Majd Kayyal’s “N,” translated to English by Thoraya El Rayyes (Palestine +100, Comma Press), where some Palestinians live in a parallel universe. It’s even more true in Ibtisam Azem’s The Book of Disappearance, available in translation by Sinan Antoon. In Azem’s book, Palestinians simply disappear, and Israelis cannot see them anywhere.

Moore said that she is examining how science fiction, in novels and stories such as these, can change how we look at space-time configurations.