Lucie Kim-Chi Mercier Reports on “Walter Benjamin in Palestine”

Lucie Kim-Chi Mercier here offers a further perspective on the conference “Walter Benjamin in Palestine” that was held in Ramallah in December 2015:
“Aimed at ‘breaking the de facto cultural and academic boycott of Palestine’, the event constituted a direct response to the International WaltScreen Shot 2016-03-01 at 10.55.24 PMer Benjamin Society’s decision to locate its annual conference in Israel, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University (13–16 December). Scheduled one week ahead of the latter, the Ramallah-based workshop gathered some active figures in the Boycott Divestments Sanctions (BDS) movement, contesting Israeli institutions’ claim of ownership over the Jewish philosopher. Attuning oneself to Benjamin’s ‘tradition of the oppressed’, it was suggested, means counteracting his patrimonization by reinvigorating his radical critique of the law and violence of the state.”
Her account suggests the productivity of such proactive projects that honor the boycott call:
“The pivotal question running through the workshop was therefore that of legibility: how to render Benjamin’s works readable in the Palestinian context. What kind of legibility did Palestine confer on Benjamin’s writings? It quickly appeared that identifying specific points of passage between texts and situations was a difficult injunction. Some heated debates burst out about the necessity of close reading to achieve this objective. To a certain degree, the transdisciplinary composition of the workshop made it impossible to legislate over the nature of ‘reading’ itself. Interventions and interruptions often seemed more in touch with the surrounding reality than the conceptual exegesis.”

Download the report published in Radical Philosophy: Benjamin in Ramallah Conference Report

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