Human suffering in colonial contexts: reflections from Palestine

Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


This article investigates the ways in which European colonialism and Zionist settler colonialism evicted the Palestinians from humanity, and how contemporary global racial politics and the emerging “trauma genre” continue to silence and distort their collective suffering and resistance. Specifically, my analysis is inspired by interview material I gathered of experiences of death and dying in East Jerusalem. Drawing from the Israeli legal term “present–absentee”, I suggest that spaces of death under Israeli settler colonialism constitute sites of denial and nonrecognition of Palestinian humanity. The denial of Palestinians’ collective history and continuous suffering has positioned Palestinians as outside of history, time and geography, and therefore as outside of humanity and modernity. This paper argues that individualized psychological readings silence the multidimensional histories of being and surviving in the homeland. Furthermore, the individualizing “trauma genre” inadequately interprets Palestinian suffering when compounded with the interlocking power of colonialism and global racial logics. As such, it conceals the political struggle and social resistance of Palestinians under the Israeli colonial regime.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)277-290
Number of pages14
JournalSettler Colonial Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Taylor & Francis.


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