I begin by drawing in autoethnographic pieces to elicit features of settler colonial space (settler space) and society in the U.S., space that is usually defined as democratic, moral, and progressive, yet obscures the deeper history of settlement. The autoethnography goes on to explore links between higher education systems and discourses to settler colonial history and discourses. To enable comparison, I've also conducted case study work on the higher education system in Palestine, drawing in interviews, documentary analysis, direct observation, and gis mapping to describe Palestinian higher education at individual, institutional, systemic, and geographical levels. This study includes research with six colleges and universities in the West Bank. I finish the project with a similar case study of Native higher education in the U.S., as a Native American approach to higher education that relates to the settler colonial context from the other side, from a place of resistance and preservation of Native culture and epistemology.
I argue that higher education plays multifaceted roles relative to settler colonialism, advancing and resisting settler hegemony; highlighting or obscuring the settler colonial character of space; legitimizing or submerging settler colonial discourses. In other words, higher education serves as a constellation of sites where the "frontier" lives on and where epistemological "homesteading" is enabled. The settler imaginary of free and open space available for acquisition and development becomes a metaphor for this dimension of higher education space, and the multiple strategies employed by Native groups to preserve culture and understanding becomes a metaphor for understanding the countervailing dimensions of Native institutions.
Case Study Themes in Palestine
Higher education, community leadership, and innovation
Palestinian faculty, administrators, and students in the West Bank go about their work in an unparalleled context, experiencing obstacles and challenges that are singularly unique in the world. In the context of these conditions, participants in the academy approach the work of producing and sharing knowledge with creativity, innovation, and dedication. How does Palestinian higher education contribute to the development of uniquely Palestinian voices, Palestinian intellectual traditions, and Palestinian cultural and institutional leaders? The following research areas highlight critical dimensions of the Palestinian academy.
System, Institutions, and Individuals
Higher Education as a Social System
Given the unique challenges the Palestinian academy faces, and the range of Palestinian aspirations and resources, how does the academy adapt? This research area could include attention to creative action, resistance activities, economic development initiatives, technological innovation, and community leadership development in the university.
Geography, Infrastructure, and Space
Higher Education in an Occupation
How does the Israeli presence in the West Bank and control of infrastructure and resources affect Palestinian higher education? This research area includes attention to individual, institutional, and national dimensions and accounts for a range of structures including checkpoints, the separation barrier, military incursions, withholding tax revenue disbursements, and settlements.
Knowledge and being
Higher Education and Palestinian Identity
Higher education is traditionally understood as a conditioning phase for future leadership and intelligentsia. How do the higher education years contribute to the development of Palestinian national leadership, whether political, moral, or intellectual? Edward Said's notions of intellectualism could serve as an organizing framework.
Children waiting in line at Hebron checkpoint
Dr. Sabri Saidem, former Minister of Education and Higher Education, Palestinian Authority
Israeli security personnel in Jerusalem
Hwy 60, bypass road West of Bethlehem
Hwy 60, bypass road, west of Bethlehem
An Najah National University, Nablus
Al-Shihab Al-Maqdisi College, East Jerusalem
Street sign showing the way to Ma'ale Adumim, Israeli settlement in the West Bank
Dr. Natsheh and Dr. Affouneh, An Najah National University
Sniper tower at Rachel's tomb in Bethlehem
Al Quds Open University
Road sign directing Palestinians to PA controlled Area A.
Section of the separation barrier in Bethlehem
Overlook of Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem
Palestinian college students
Sign marking the entrance to Hebron in PA governed Area A
Turnstile at Hebrew University
Segregated highway, South of Ramallah
Military installations are common at intersections throughout the West Bank
Palestinian Intellectual Forum, East Jerusalem
Institutional locations in Occupied Palestine and the need for a critical geographical study
Colleges and universities are located throughout Palestine. Many are separated from their constituencies by infrastructure, separation walls, and checkpoints. The attempt to operate higher education at the institutional and systemic levels in this context suggests the need for a critical geographical study: how does the geography of occupation impinge on higher education functions?
This study exists to increase understanding of the conditions within which Palestinian faculty, staff, and students conduct their work and their creative efforts to advance excellence in their fields.
Meet the principal investigator
As a scholar, my research is an expression of my commitment to be of service to others. In contrast to the notion of ivory tower research, I seek to conduct my work in relationship with thoughtful communities of practice. The resulting research is driven by insights that emerge from relationships, and is pointed toward the mutual creation and application of knowledge.
It is in this relational spirit that I approach my research in Palestine. The work is predicated by the processes of being received as a guest, listening to narratives, allowing others' perspectives to challenge and shape my own, and reconceptualizing myself as a participant in collaborative research.
Get in Touch
I am actively seeking collaborators, scholarly friends, and others interested in partnering with this work. If you would like to connect, please reach out.