‘Body of the Nation - Corporeality, Territory, Performance: Palestine and Israel’ (2010)
Dr Andrew Renton
Professor Howard Caygill, Dr Juliet Steyn
The thesis is rooted in the study of the complicated relationships between the body and territory - and by extension, the body and the nation - in Palestine and Israel. This framework allows me to elaborate a more detailed study of the Palestinian suicide bomber, considered in relation to the occupation of Palestinian-inhabited territory in the west Bank and Gaza.
I draw on examples from visual culture in which the deceased suicide bomber is commemorated as a martyr, in this way presenting an idealized image of the Palestinian nation. I argue that there is a relationship between territory, the "body" of the nation, and the body of the suicide bomber/martyr, and one in which ideals of selfsacrifice and resistance are performed by the martyr. In so doing I theorize the performance of martyrdom, the staging of the self as a martyr by the suicide bomber to be, as a type of subject formation under occupation, and as the enactment of a resistant Subjectivity. This study asserts that the actions of the Palestinian suicide bomber are intentional and linked to territorial encroachment on Palestinian lands. In so doing it positions itself in opposition to a majority of the research literature on the subject.
This research makes an innovative contribution to the study of Palestinian martyrdom by removing the suicide bomber from its primary field of study in the West, terrorism and security studies, and situating it within the realm performance studies. It proposes new understandings of the Palestinian suicide bomber, considered in terms of corporeality, performance, intentionality and subjectivity. Additionally the thesis considers performance as a research methodology.
The elaboration of my theoretical propositions emerged in part through performance, the staging of myself in a mimetic attempt to put myself in the place of the Palestinian martyr. Through performance I "act out" material under consideration in the thesis while also positioning myself in relation to it. In this way I insert myself into the thesis as a critical and positioned subject. The notion of the positioned subject is also central to the practice element, where I use performance to position myself outside of mainstream North American Jewish identity. I perform various Others of my own Jewish identity, in this way asserting a resistant subjectivity.