Palestinian Studies

2023 Workshop

Jennifer Mogannam

Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Davis

Women of the Revolution: Palestinian Decolonial Praxis and Gendered Labor in Civil War Lebanon

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) time in Lebanon (1970-82) is noted as the most  vibrant peak of the Palestinian revolution. This revolution also coincided with the Lebanese civil  war (1975-1990) and, through this context, an alliance or coalition was formed between the PLO  and the Lebanese National Movement (LNM). This paper works to offer analyses and questions  particularly about the decolonial praxis of women in coalition, dissecting questions of gendered  labor, value, and sustainability in revolutionary movement. It draws on oral history narratives of  active participants and particularly those who worked with or in close proximity to the General  Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW), which also served as a home for Lebanese women’s  movement in joint labor with Palestinian women and offers some context on the narratives and  how labor is valued. This paper juxtaposes the use of iconography of women in the armed  resistance in the Palestinian liberation movement with the quotidian modes of resistance that the  broader base of women partook in. In particular, this paper analyzes the iconographic practices  used to portray Leila Khaled on a global scale and incorporates narratives, including from  Khaled, about other areas of resistance that made meaning for the lives of active participant  women. 

This paper looks both at questions of pride and nostalgia for the types of gendered labor that  were performed at the time and comments on the contradictions that this pride elucidates when  situating labor value as always already a gendered relationship. Mogannam argues that the  gendered lapse in decolonial praxis is not that movement organizing had gendered roles, but  rather that the labor of the revolution, while all necessary, was gendered in terms of its social and  political value. In turn, it not only looks at feminine labor in relation to value, but also at the  mobilization of women largely into sector-based labor, which surfaces larger questions of  revolutionary sustainability. At the time the Palestinian slogan “thawra hatta al-nasr” or  “Revolution Until Victory” vibrated across the globe, inspiring revolutionary struggle.  Mogannam is particularly concerned with the component of victory in this revolutionary quest.  Pondering on the concensus within her oral history interviews that this period was the most  liberating time for women, this paper deconstructs the possibility of revolution and liberation as  achievable within particular temporal and spatial limits and opens up a conversation precisely on  what it would mean to achieve revolution, liberation, Victory. At a time, and to this day, when  even the most prominent Palestinian women call for nationalism first and women’s equity  second, Mogannam interrogates the possibilities of this proposition as juxtaposed with the  question of whether a simultaneous undertaking of the political (or the nation) and the social  could be mobilized for a more fruitful and sustainable revolution. For the very purpose of the  quest to achieving Victory.

Jennifer Mogannam is currently a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow and will join UC Santa Cruz as an assistant professor of critical race and ethnic studies in July 2023. Jennifer earned her Ph.D. in ethnic studies from UC San Diego and her MA in Middle Eastern Studies from the American University of Beirut. Jennifer is a critical, cross-disciplinary scholar of Palestinian and Arab transnational movements, third world solidarities, gendered power in anti-colonial struggle, violence, refuge, and revolution. Her first book project on revolutionary liberation praxis documents analyzes popular narrative and active participant knowledge about and cultivated through the alliance between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Lebanese National Movement during the Palestinian revolution and Lebanon’s Civil War. Jennifer has organized in transnational Palestinian community spaces for nearly 20 years, formerly holding international board positions in the Palestinian Youth Movement and most recently as a founder of the Palestinian Feminist Collective.