The Palestinian Idea

A talk by Greg Burris about film, media, and the radical imagination


Fields of Knowledge
  • Politics / Economics
  • Public culture
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Slought, CARGC

Contributing Institutions

Penn Middle East Center

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce "The Palestinian Idea," a conversation with film and cultural theorist Greg Burris about film, media, and the radical imagination, on Monday, November 11, 2019 from 12-1pm. The event is free and open to the public, and has been organized in collaboration with the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) and the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Lunch will be provided at 11:45am.

Is there a link between the colonization of Palestinian lands and the enclosing of Palestinian minds? In his book, The Palestinian Idea, Greg Burris proposes that the political nature of media is not their ability to reflect reality but to shatter it -- or, even more precisely, to discover other realities hiding in its cracks, to find unoccupied spaces lurking in the darkness in which the rules governing the existing order are negated and alternative ways of thinking and being can be imagined and explored. This is precisely how Burris suggests we should approach film and media in the context of Palestine. The political potential of these objects resides neither in their geographic location nor in the identity of their makers but in their capacity to break the Israeli stranglehold on reality and open a window into another world.

Burris argues that it is precisely through film and media that hope occasionally emerges amidst hopelessness, emancipation amidst oppression, freedom amidst apartheid. The author employs the work of Edward W. Said, Jacques Rancière, and Cedric J. Robinson in order to locate Palestinian utopia in the heart of the Zionist present. He analyzes the films of prominent directors Annemarie Jacir (Salt of This Sea, When I Saw You) and Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now) to investigate the emergence and formation of Palestinian identity. Looking at Mais Darwazah's documentary My Love Awaits Me by the Sea, Burris considers the counterhistories that make up the Palestinian experience—stories and memories that have otherwise been obscured or denied. He also examines Palestinian (in)visibility in the global media landscape, and how issues of Black-Palestinian transnational solidarity are illustrated through social media, staged news spectacles, and hip hop music.

read more

Greg Burris is a film and cultural theorist whose work focuses on race, media, and emancipatory politics. He is an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the American University of Beirut. His writings have appeared in such publications as CineAction, Cinema Journal, The Electronic Intifada, Film Quarterly, The Guardian, Jadaliyya, Middle Eastern Studies, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, and the anthologies Futures of Black Radicalism and Global Raciality: Empire, PostColoniality, and Decoloniality. The Palestinian Idea: Film, Media, and the Radical Imagination is his first book.

"Emancipatory visions of a different world do not usually arise out of elections or legislation; they arise out of culture, out of art, songs, and poetry. We might therefore [...] say that culture can sometimes be more political than politics itself."

— Greg Burris, The Palestinian Idea