Palestinian Studies

2023 Workshop

Thayer Hastings

Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology, CUNY Graduate Center

First Intifada Bayanat and the Recurrences of Anticolonial Revolt

This paper is part of a broader project that interrogates the temporality of revolution and revolutionary social life through an analysis of political texts originating in the first Palestinian Intifada (1987-1991). This contribution will explore the genre of the bayan in the historical and political context of the first Intifada and establish a method for critically reading the first Intifada bayanat. The multi-media revolutionary landscape, including graffiti and song, together helped organize people, constituted the infrastructure of revolt, and shapes what serialized political literature and the bayanat as a source might reveal about revolutions not yet fulfilled. 

The bayanat, or communiques, were used to organize the everyday life of a mass popular uprising against Israeli military rule and repression. Authored by the underground anonymous Palestinian leadership of the Intifada and illicitly distributed on doorsteps and bus stops, the bayanat immediately became a central feature of life within the Intifada. These guerilla bulletins announced general strikes, described when and where a protest would take place, and many other daily features of the popular uprising, and were a key aspect of enabling the collective organization of the popular and anticolonial revolt as well as masking the identity of its authors. While the form of bayanat has a long and broad history in Arabic political thought, the language of the Intifada bayanat was particularly dense, local, and specific to the moment. The bayanat were explicitly anticolonial in the postcolonial era of the late 1980s. The texts I am working with detail a specific moment and object of anticolonial expressive form in Palestine. Since the 1990s, the bayanat took on a life of their own and have come to embody how the event of the first Intifada lives on in the collective memory of Palestinians.

My contribution to the New Direction in Palestinian Studies 2023 meeting focuses on bayanat attributed to the most central organizing body that operated underground and crossed party lines, the United National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU). It is based on research at the archives of Birzeit University and the Abu Jihad Museum, and interviews in 2016 conducted for my MA in Arab Studies. Primarily, it will analyze the genre of the first Intifada bayanat through a close reading of three examples: an early bayan, a middle bayan, and a late bayan. This reading will attend to the form and design, the content and demands, the authorship and distribution, the translations, as well as audience and reception of the bayanat, and how these factors shifted over time. Finally, I address some of the silences of the texts, namely the gendered silences. Overall, the paper examines the genre of the bayan forged in the first Intifada through the materiality of the textual objects to demonstrate the bayanat, many of which remain held in personal archives, as a key but neglected source for studying Palestinian anticolonial traditions. The Intifada is an example that goes against the predominant teleology of anticolonial revolt that identifies a zenith in the 1950s and 1960s. Ultimately, the project makes the argument that for a moment that in retrospect appears all too fleeting, the bayanat facilitated the organization of a popular rebellion. They functioned as illicit infrastructures for revolt, within a broader ecosystem of uprising in which the recurrence of ‘Intifada’ becomes legible to Palestinians.

Thayer Hastings is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. His dissertation project focuses on Palestinian Jerusalemites and the forms of bureaucratic proof they produce in maintaining their residency status. The research investigates how crises of and within colonialism shape and take shape in everyday life and the cracks revealed by attending to spaces of intimacy, relationships, and the home. He holds an MA from the Georgetown University Center for Contemporary Studies and a BA from the University of Washington in Seattle.