Living death, recovering life: psychosocial resistance and the power of the dead in East Jerusalem

This article examines death and dying in occupied East Jerusalem. It explores practices and subjective experiences of death, and how narratives of the loss of Palestinian individuals, families, and communities ‘give life’ to the ones who died. The author(a Palestinian herself) is close to the community she studies, which gives her privileged access to personal stories and enables her to write from an insider's perspective. The study analyses the ways settler colonial power is predicated, not only through control and expropriation of the living, but also of the dead, including Palestinian burial sites. While engaging with, and learning from, voices of Palestinians that have lost loved ones, the author evokes the psycho-political power found (and emerging) from sites of death. She argues that, within the context of occupied East Jerusalem, a significant colonial domination over the dead is subverted by individuals and communities. The power of the oppressed creates new spaces for strength, hope, and building the future, while also offering the potential for inner peace and psychosocial wellbeing. The article concludes by centring on the healing and unifying practices internal to Palestinian communities in times of death and dying. These everyday psychosocial practices offer these communities the tools to create counter-reactions to loss.

Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Nadera