Palestinian Studies

2023 Workshop

Tareq Radi

Ph.D. Candidate, New York University

Indigenous Futures and Imperial Anxieties: A Ledger of Palestinian Insurgency and British Strategy of Necropolitical Hedging

This paper examines Palestinian railway sabotage during the 1936-39 Great Revolt through an economic register to make visible a radical tradition of Palestinian insurgency that struck at the core processes which enabled the British Mandate of Palestine to reproduce itself. Through an examination of the Mandate Government’s financial data across a series of annual reports from the General Manager of Palestine Railways, the Auditor of Accounts, and the Treasurer - between 1929 and 1947- as well as the minutes of the Executive Council meetings, it locates Palestine Railways to be a technology of primitive accumulation. With the railway as a central node, the paper produces alternative indices to measure the fellahin’s sabotage of imperial authority through obstructions to the circulation of capital, people, information, and imperial metaphorical value. Through this fusion of material and metaphorical representations, the paper makes visible a strategy of necropolitical hedging, wherein imperial sovereignty and financial stability are co-constituted and mediated by a dialectic of counterinsurgency and finance capital. It demonstrates how the Mandate Government’s demand for coherence and certainty within its policies are not merely performances of archival practice, but rather are the foundation through which confidence in its authority’s ability to withstand disruptions are forged and indexed.

Though much of the literature has at best described the second phase of the Revolt to have been a failure of the national bourgeoise or at worst characterized it as simply sporadic, disorganized violence and banditry, this work seeks to illuminate an alternative reading of the insurrection through the very ledgers that sought to erase it. Writing against the erasure of Palestinian archives and the British Mandate’s archive of erasure, this paper builds on a tradition of Palestinian scholarship that situates the Palestinian body at the center of its analysis to make settler colonialism’s political economy visible. In place of seeking to understand Palestinian relationships to infrastructure through colonial paradigms of development or racial logics of improvement -- that aim to justify Indigenous dispossession—this research asks what lessons about state governance and finance capital may be gleaned by situating such relationships within a process of primitive accumulation? Rather than cite the literacy rates of the fellahin to be an obstacle to gaining access to their experiences, this work aims to understand how notions of literacy may be generously expanded to ask what forms of literacy were embodied or practiced during the British Mandate of Palestine? Noting the massive expansion of landless peasants in the years prior to the Revolt, it asks in what ways did their experiences of dispossession, as a form of subjugated knowledge, code their political praxis? Finally, this research emphasizes that the very structure of the Nakba’s ongoing dispossession is at stake when challenging colonial epistemologies and seeking to develop methodological frameworks that can grapple with insurgent acts.

Tareq Radi is a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. He is currently preparing a dissertation that examines the financialization of housing in the West Bank as a process of financial and social reengineering rooted within a settler-colonial history of U.S. real estate development and empire building in Palestine. 

Radi’s research interests include studies of racial capitalism, critical Indigenous theory, Black feminist thought, Palestinian studies, abolitionist geographies, and the financialization of housing. He holds a MSc in Globalization and Development at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and a B.S in Finance from George Mason University. Radi is a co-producer of the pedagogical film Gaza in Context, and co-edited Gaza in Context: War and Settler Colonialism, with Rutgers University Professor Noura Erakat. His published work can be found in the Journal of Palestine Studies.