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Title: The politics of 'sumud' : former Palestinian women prisoners' experience of incarceration under Israeli occupation
Author: Saleh, Samah
ISNI:       0000 0004 5993 502X
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines former Palestinian women prisoners’ experiences of imprisonment in Israeli colonial prisons. It traces their life experiences before, during and after prison, examining the boundaries imposed around them by Palestinian culture, which treats women’s bodies and sexuality as the representation of family honour and reputation. Another important layer of restriction is imposed by the Israeli occupation, which targets Palestinian women in their everyday lives, using various tactics to expose Palestinian private space to the public as a means of exercising power. As part of these practices, the occupation uses women’s bodies as an object of threat to control the Palestinian community, which in turn becomes more conservative in issues relating to women. I argue through the thesis that different boundaries are multilayered and far from fixed. Furthermore, the politics of social relations and interaction that take place within them are varied and affect women in different ways. It is in this context that I suggest that women create a space of negotiation according to their awareness of the nature of a space, and their boundaries within it, to exercise their political subjecthood and agency. I discuss how former Palestinian women prisoners’ political subjecthood and their political performance shift between visibility – as community workers, mothers of political prisoners, participants in funerals, marches, or protests, and even as housewives – to invisibility when they take roles in the military resistance groups and employ different tactics to hide their activities from their families and communities. Hence, women are in a continuous process of spatial negotiation, demanding constant understanding and awareness of their boundaries and limitations. Sumud (steadfastness) is an important element for Palestinian women in their encounter with the Israeli occupation, and also in constructing their space of negotiation. Their practices of sumud are shaped and reshaped according to the politics of the space of negotiation these women create. Before their imprisonment, Palestinian women perform their sumud by bearing the Israeli occupation’s efforts to control Palestinian homes. After imprisonment, this sumud is reconstructed as resistance against collaboration with the Israeli prison authority, and determination to challenge the limitations of prison by centering their daily lives on politics and preparation for life after their release. In this thesis, drawing on feminist standpoint theories, I facilitate voicing the former Palestinian women prisoners’ silenced experiences and shed light on their often-unrecognized roles in resisting the Israeli occupation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral