Frances S. Hasso is Associate Professor in Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies at Duke University with secondary appointments in the Department of Sociology and the Department of History. She is an Editor of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (2015–2018). In 2016, she published with Zakia Salime Freedom without Permission: Bodies and Space in the Arab Revolutions (Duke University Press). Recent publications include “Civil and the Limits of Politics in Revolutionary Egypt,” in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. She is author of Consuming Desires: Family Crisis and the State in the Middle East (Stanford University Press 2011) and Resistance, Repression and Gender Politics in Occupied Palestine and Jordan (Syracuse University Press 2005).
Documenting the Non-Archival Reproductive Subject: Intimate Palestinian Life during the British Mandate
This paper discusses methodological problems and findings from a book length research project on Palestinian women’s experiences of perinatal (abortion, miscarriage, and stillbirth) and young child death during the British mandate (1920–1948). Little scholarship on Mandate Palestine allows us to “see the faces of the people we are talking about” before the 1948 Nakba. This seeing would recognize natives as more than objects to be civilized or subjects of national trauma. I have conducted oral history interviews with 10 Palestinian women above 95 years old living in historic Palestine or Amman about their experiences with reproduction and reproductive control, childbirth, and perinatal and child death in 1930s and 1940s Palestine. I am also examining interviews with women in four oral history projects, some initiated in the 1980s, reading them against and with the grain for discussion of and silences around illness, reproduction, and child death. In using cross-disciplinary theories, sources and methods to study perinatal and child death as part of Palestinian women’s reproductive experiences, this project seeks to expand dimensions of the past and present considered worthy of analysis. Scholarship and oral history projects with Palestinian women in the mandate focus on national struggle, loss, and survival. They are often part of desperate efforts to remember, record and reckon with the loss of historic Palestine, but are largely silent on quotidian loss structured by class and gendered status as well as colonial conditions. This project aims to foreground Palestinian women’s experiences beyond the authorized nationalist frame of collective pain even as it also addresses the lead up to 1948, 1948, and the years that followed in relation to these matters.