1948 in Palestine and Israel: New Approaches and Interpretations
October 5-6 2018 at the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies
The workshop seeks to take stock of innovative recent research on the war, its origins, and consequences as well as to open new avenues of research and interpretation. The research on the history and memory of the 1948 war in Palestine and Israel and its origins has seen tremendous innovation in recent years. Scholars have applied more resolutely everyday-life history and cultural history to explore the experience of Jews and Palestinians during the war. One result has been to shift our perspective—from what happened during the war and debates over who did what to whom—to what Jews and Palestinians thought was happening before, during, and after the war, and the political arrangements they imagined.
New conceptual frameworks have taken us from a strict local angle to a comparative, global view of the war and of the conflict between Zionists and Palestinians. One comparative approach sought to place the war within a global history of partitions, forced migration, decolonization and the notions of self-determination and minority rights in the first half of the twentieth century. Another approach, related though not identical, emphasized settler colonialism, viewing Zionist settlers as sharing attributes with European immigrants to colonial North America, South Africa, and Algeria, enacting a project aimed at conquest and dispossession. And an additional view saw Zionism as both a settler-colonial project as well as a national one. Perhaps the biggest transformation of the history and memory of the war is embedded in the term Nakba that has now become central to public discussions and scholarly interpretations of 1948. This is one reason for the growing public memory wars over its meaning. These and other topics stand at the center of the workshop that brings together a diverse group of scholars whose work has been original to understanding the war of 1948.