MESA Book Awards
Rochelle A. Davis
2011 Albert Hourani Book Award Co-Winner
Palestinian Village Histories: Geographies of the Displaced
Stanford University Press
Starting with a promising methodological innovation –namely, the study of the memory books of displaced Palestinian villagers and their descendants -- this volume takes us on a remarkable journey into the study of memory. Davis examines the challenge of writing history both in the absence of sources and often by people who may never have seen or lived in the places whose history they tell.
The accounts that emerge not only counteract the villagers’ displacement from history that accompanied their displacement from land. They also invert the hierarchies of historical and legitimizing knowledge. This eloquent and engaging treatment of the ways in which Palestinian villagers produce history is commendable for its multi-sited and interdisciplinary research, for its careful discussions of the histories of dispossession themselves, for the careful attention paid to the ethnography of both written and oral historical production, for the nuanced discussion of diverse views and debates about village histories as well as the critical role such histories play in Palestinian understandings of their presents and futures, for critical attention to omissions, elisions, and silences, and finally, for its attention to generational difference in the understanding of the importance, role, and form of those histories.