Popular Culture, Relational History, and the Question of Power in Palestine and Israel
The marginalization of popular culture in radical scholarship on Palestine and Israel is symptomatic of the conceptual limits that still define much Middle East studies scholarship: namely, the prevailing logic of the nation-state on the one hand and the analytic tools of classical Marxist historiography and political economy on the other. This essay offers a polemic about the form that alternative scholarly projects might take through recourse to questions of popular culture. The authors argue that close attention to the ways that popular culture “articulates” with broader political, social, and economic processes can expand scholarly understandings of the terrain of power in Palestine and Israel, and hence the possible arenas and modalities of struggle.
Rebecca Stein teaches in the department of cultural anthropology at Duke University. Ted Swedenburg teaches in the anthropology department at the University of Arkansas. He is the author, among other books, of Memories of Revolt: The 1936–39 Rebellion and the Palestinian National Past. Professors Stein and Swedenburg are coeditors of Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of Popular Culture (forthcoming, Duke University Press). They wish to thank Joel Beinin, Yael Ben-Zvi, Robert Blecher, Elliott Colla, Andrew Janiak, Penny Johnson, Negar Mottahedeh, and several anonymous readers for their careful readings and helpful suggestions on earlier versions.