Palestinian Studies

2019 Workshop

Michelle Campos

Associate Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History, University of Florida

Reconstructing Palestinian Households: Archival Trails and Digital Footprints

This paper explores the possibilities and challenges for reconstructing Palestinian households through the intersection of traditional tools of archivally-based urban history, new digital humanities methodologies, and internet-based family history and community crowdsourcing. First, drawing on my own work on late Ottoman Jerusalem, I discuss the value of the two Ottoman censuses (1880s, 1905) for re-peopling Jerusalem’s streets and buildings. These household-level censuses captured Jerusalemites across religious, confessional, ethnic, and occupational lines; women, children, domestic workers, concubines, and others take their place within the family and within the household. In conjunction, digital tools like Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping enable us to construct thematic maps of the city and its households which reveal patterns of segregation, kinship networks, and movement in the city, among other things. Layering qualitative sources alongside cartographic representations of the city brings the social landscape of Palestinian households into sharper relief and moderates the empiricist claims of traditional GIS. Lastly, the robust and growing availability of personal, family, and community records online, in such spaces as Mona Halaby’s Mandate Jerusalemites Facebook group or, allows us to piece together many more (and more robust views of) Palestinian households and communities than previously documented in traditional archives. However, inviting public participation in the research, documentation, and interpretive process raises both opportunities and challenges for historians.

Michelle Campos is an Associate Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History. Her scholarly areas of interest include the late Ottoman Empire and its political culture, the social history of historical Palestine, Muslim/Non-Muslim relations, Middle Eastern urban history, and the digital humanities (particularly spatial history and social networks). Her first book, Ottoman Brothers: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Early-Twentieth Century Palestine, explored the development of Ottoman collective identity in the aftermath of the July 1908 Ottoman revolution, tracing how Muslims, Christians, and Jews defined, practiced, and contested the contours of imperial citizenship and local belonging. She is currently writing an urban social history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Jerusalem.