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Dr Farah Aboubakr, University of Edinburgh presents "Speak Bird, Speak Memory: The Politics of Storytelling in Palestine"

Part of the IAIS Visiting Speaker Series

Dr Farah Aboubakr obtained her PhD in 2014 in Translation and Intercultural Studies at the University of Manchester. Her research focuses on a number of areas mainly: Palestinian popular culture and oral literature within memory, gender and cultural studies, identity development and relation to language, music and cinema in Palestine. Her latest publication is a monograph entitled The Folktales of Palestine: Cultural Identity, Memory and the Politics of Storytelling (2019) with IB Tauris in collaboration with SOAS Palestine Studies Centre.

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The folktale is not just a narrative of entertainment; it can also act as a hybrid site for cultural resistance, cultural and collective memory reaffirmation, and continuity in the Palestinian discourse of orality. To understand the impact of folktales within the discourse of memory and cultural identity development, I analyse a selection of folktales edited, compiled and translated by Ibrahim Muhawi and Sharif Kanaana in Speak, Bird, Speak Again (1989) and its Arabic version Qul Ya Tayerقول يا طير. Synthesising various concepts within memory studies, the paper examines the scholarly contribution of the compilers, paying a close look at the politics of storytelling in the Palestinian case. Playing an essential role in transmitting and preserving Palestinian memory and cultural identity, the paper probes Palestinian women’s agency both as storytellers and protagonists in the folktales. Moreover, the folktale I argue encapsulates interwoven narratives of regeneration within peasantry discourse and pre-1948 setting where the language of folk religion or references to food, for instance become key in the manifestation of Palestinian cultural identity. In short, this paper sheds new light on the role of the Palestinian folklorist, folktales and storytellers, adopting a novel approach that combines memory, trauma, and identity studies among others.

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Everyone is welcome to join us at IAIS with refreshments available in the Common Room from 17:00.

Dr Farah Aboubakr