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Thinking Palestine via Ferguson and Standing Rock: Radical Kinship and the ‘Intersectionality of Struggles’

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Watch on Watson's YouTube channel.


On October 12th 2016, Sky Bird Black Owl gave birth to Mni Wiconi (water is life), at Standing Rock, in the camp erected to protest against the Dakota access pipeline project, considered to violate Indigenous sovereignty and to endanger the region’s water resources. In media portraits Mni Wiconi appears wrapped in traditional Native American patterned cloths, yet also highly visible in the portrait is a Palestinian Kuffyah draped around the cot.

This frame is highly evocative of the central repositioning of Palestine in global justice struggles. Firstly, the black-white checkered Kuffyah acts as a signifier of how Palestine is more than a national liberation project, operating today as ‘analytic’ (Qutami, 2014) of contemporary manifestations of the coloniality of power. Besides continuing to inspire and be inspired by anti-colonial struggles- actualising the legacy of internationalism- Palestine also operates as a lens to detect racialised systems of exploitation, dispossession and surveillance effected today through a global regime. Secondly- and from within a decolonial understanding of power as a system of production of colonial differences- this snapshot is a vivid illustration of temporal epistemologies of resistance that Angela Davis and Cornel West (2016) described in terms of ‘the ‘constant struggle’: the convergence of movements (anti-colonial, Black, Indigenous and abolitionist movements) and peoples whose grievances are similarly rooted in the structural violence of Western colonial modernity.

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This resistant politics- and its attendant languages, aesthetics, and tactics - is generative of what anthropologist Miriyam Aouragh (2019) calls radical kinship, which focuses on a fraternity that is anchored in the collective coalitions of the struggle itself.

In this light, this panel brings together a number of scholars and activists thinking about -and partaking in- radical intersectional struggles and global movements for racial and social justice. We take on Salih and Richter-Devroe’s call to think Palestine as an imaginary of liberation beyond “the not yet fully realized- and yet already mutilated- project of the nation-state” (2018:4) and focus instead on the continuum between settler colonial contexts and liberal democracies. Featuring visiting scholar Ruba Salih with Miriyam Aouragh and Loubna Qutami this panel contributes to extant and novel forms of radical de-colonial and feminist thinking, underscoring a politics of hope (Carty and Mohanti, 2018) against growing pessimist, nationalist and essentialist takes on identity, oppression, and liberation.


Visiting Fellow in Palestinian Studies at Brown University, Ruba Salih, is a professor at the Department of Anthropology and Sociology of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Her research interests and writing cover transnational migration and diasporas across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Islam and gender, the Palestine question, and refugees. She has been a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge and at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.

She is the author of Gender in Transnationalism: Home, Longing and Belonging Among Moroccan Migrant Women, and of Musulmane Rivelate: Donne, Islam Modernita’ (winner of the Premio Pozzale 2011). Currently, she is working on a book on the aesthetics of waiting and the politics of return among Palestinian refugees, which is to be published by Cambridge University Press. Among her publications are two co-edited special issues with Sophie Richter-Devroe: "Palestine and Self-determination Beyond National Frames: Emerging Politics, Cultures, and Claims" in the South Atlantic Quarterly (2018) and "Cultures of Resistance in Palestine and Beyond: On the Politics of Arts, Aesthetic and Affect" in the Arab Studies Journal (2014). Her most recent articles include: "Displacing the Anthropocene: Colonisation, Extinction and the Unruliness of Nature in Palestine" with Olaf Corry in Environment and Planning E. Nature and Space (2021), and "From Standing Rock to Palestine We are United: diaspora politics, decolonisation and the intersectionality of struggles" with Elena Zambelli and Lynn Welchman in Ethnic and Racial Studies (2020).

Miriyam Aouragh is a Dutch-Moroccan anthropologist. She is a Reader at the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI), University of Westminster. She is the author of the book Palestine Online and the forthcoming Mediating the Makhzan. Her research and writings focus on grassroots movements, digital politics, and (counter-) revolutions. For a list of publications, please see CAMRI and WestminsterResearch.

Loubna Qutami is an assistant professor in the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Qutami is a former President’s Postdoctoral Fellow from the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley (2018-2020) and received her PhD from the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Riverside (2018). Qutami’s research examines transnational Palestinian youth movements after the 1993 Oslo Accords through the 2011 Arab Uprisings. Her work is based on scholar-activist ethnographic research methods. Qutami’s broader scholarly interests include Palestine, critical refugee studies, the racialization of Arab/Muslim communities in the U.S., settler-colonialism, youth movements, transnationalism, and indigenous and Third World Feminism.