MENAS Colloquium Series - 'Save Us From the Children: Trauma, Citizenship and the Politics of Palestinian Childhood'
Since the Second Intifada, trauma relief has served as the primary justification for a range of international humanitarian aid and development projects targeting Palestinian children and youth. Considering the central role that international humanitarian relief and development organizations have played in the Palestinian state-building process, Sandy Marshall argues that beyond merely responding to the trauma of political violence, humanitarian aid projects produce traumatized childhood subjects with the goal of transforming them into governable, neo-liberal citizens. While Palestinian children and adults alike suffer very real physical, psychological and emotional scars from the ongoing military occupation of Palestine, humanitarian aid projects presume all Palestinian children to be always already traumatized, and thus potentially prone to violence. Thus, implicit in trauma relief projects is the threat that if children are not properly treated their pent-up emotional energy will release itself violently in the future – leading one to wonder whether such projects are primarily intended to provide relief to Palestinian children, or security from them. Moreover, the focus on personal healing through individual self-expression in trauma relief projects serves to depoliticize the context in which violence occurs, transforming the occupation into a set of symptoms to be treated. Likewise, the focus on individual trauma forecloses other possible responses to political violence, including empowerment.
Drawing on participant observer research with youth-oriented nongovernmental organizations in Palestine, as well as with Palestinian children in a West Bank refugee camp, this talk will explore the role of international nongoernmental organizations in producing particular forms of childhood political subjectivity, and how children themselves variously perform and transform such discursive constructions of Palestinian childhood.
Presented by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies.