Cover of Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique by Sa’ed Atshan
Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique
Sa’ed Atshan


May 2020
296 pages.
from $28.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503609945
Paperback ISBN: 9781503612396
Ebook ISBN: 9781503612402

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From Ramallah to New York, Tel Aviv to Porto Alegre, people around the world celebrate a formidable, transnational Palestinian LGBTQ social movement. Solidarity with Palestinians has become a salient domain of global queer politics. Yet LGBTQ Palestinians, even as they fight patriarchy and imperialism, are themselves subjected to an "empire of critique" from Israeli and Palestinian institutions, Western academics, journalists and filmmakers, and even fellow activists. Such global criticism has limited growth and led to an emphasis within the movement on anti-imperialism over the struggle against homophobia.

With this book, Sa'ed Atshan asks how transnational progressive social movements can balance struggles for liberation along more than one axis. He explores critical junctures in the history of Palestinian LGBTQ activism, revealing the queer Palestinian spirit of agency, defiance, and creativity, in the face of daunting pressures and forces working to constrict it. Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique explores the necessity of connecting the struggles for Palestinian freedom with the struggle against homophobia.

About the author

Sa'ed Atshan is Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Swarthmore College. He is the coauthor of The Moral Triangle: Germans, Israelis, Palestinians (2020).

"This utterly brilliant book will be a classic. Sa'ed Atshan's comprehensive study of queer Palestinian activism provides a rich understanding of the complex intersections of selfhood, activism, and belonging. By demonstrating the limits of binarisms of East/West and self/other through detailed empirical analysis and powerful theoretical interventions, Atshan has given us a landmark work valuable to Middle East studies, queer studies, and anthropology in the broadest sense."

—Tom Boellstorff, University of California, Irvine, author of The Gay Archipelago: Sexuality and Nation in Indonesia

"Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique is a breath of fresh air! In the academic climate in which 'radical' has become synonymous with crude schisms between West and East, authentic and inauthentic, pure and sellout, this book provides a much-needed nuanced account of Queer Palestine. Sa'ed Atshan carefully historicizes the local terrain and rightly problematizes how US-based scholarship has turned the critique of empire into an empire of critique. This is a brilliant call for academic self-reflection and a brave rejection of so-called radical myths of cultural authenticity."

—Gil Z. Hochberg, Columbia University

"Sa'ed Atshan brilliantly weaves together ethnography and personal experience in the most thoughtful, engaging, and emotionally captivating ways. His sophisticated work captures the nexus of a scholar-activist, offering an authoritative account of the challenges and trajectory of the Palestinian LGBTQ movement. A tour de force and a remarkable book for both its theoretical and empirical contributions."

—Amaney A. Jamal, Princeton University

"This powerful and prophetic book shows that the struggle for justice and freedom against empire and homophobia are indivisible. Sa'ed Atshan's text is a major intellectual force for good."

—Cornel West, Harvard University

"In Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique, Sa'ed Atshan provides a brilliant theorization of an excessive mode of political critique that strives for the high ground yet contributes to the calcification of social justice movements. Through a nuanced ethnography that foregrounds the plurality of queer experience in Israel and Palestine and the enormous complexity of the global Palestinian solidarity movement, Atshan demonstrates how an intellectual stance that combines a conviction of the moral superiority of one's political judgments with deep suspicion concerning others' complicity in relations of domination and the likely oppressive consequences of prescriptions for social transformation engenders discursive disenfranchisement, loss of key intellectual distinctions, neglect of pragmatic constraints, demoralization of activists, and the truncation of transnational queer solidarity. This deeply insightful book makes vital contributions to Queer Studies, Middle East Studies, Social Movement Studies, and an understanding of the dynamics of social justice praxis."

—Mary Hawkesworth, Rutgers University

"[A] timely and urgent account....Along with a succinct presentation of the immense challenges faced by the LGBTQ-identifying Palestinians, Atshan highlights Palestinian agency, ingenuity, and resilience."

—Joshua Donova, New Books Network