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CLCWeb: Comparative Literature And Culture


In this article, I draw on the major works of two Palestinian intellectuals—Edward Said and Hanan Ashrawi—and I compare the experiences of Palestinian intellectuals living in the United States with those living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank. The writings of these two exemplary figures shape the conceptual underpinnings of my exploration of the way Palestinian academics navigate questions of complicity with the different hegemonic political systems that govern their lives. I argue that Said and Ashrawi model a steadfast refusal to be complicit in the state-led repression around them at the same time as they engage in principled dissent from their own national institutions in the name of a broader vision of universal emancipation. Yet, Said and Ashrawi embody two distinct modes of intellectual and political activity, shaped by their relative proximity to Palestine. The critical difference between their forms of dissent reveals how, for Palestinian-Americans, engagement with the question of Palestine is discursive and intellectual labor, while for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, it can require interfacing one’s body directly with the coercive apparatus of the state. In both cases, however, the Palestinian intellectual faces systematic assaults on his or her academic freedom.