Insaniyyat 3rd Biennial Conference

“Pessoptimism: Anthropologies of Palestinian Hope and Uncertainty”Keywords: temporalities, futures, methodologies, decolonization, imagination, Palestine

Location: Beit Jala, Palestine*
NEW Conference Date: 6-8 January 2022*
Abstract Submission Deadline: July 1, 2021
One of the many phenomena highlighted by the 2020 COVID pandemic is the centrality played by the category of hope in times of uncertainty and crisis. Logics of hope could be seen at work everywhere: in governmental strategies that imposed lockdowns (as well as those that refused them); in statistical models of ‘peaks’ and ‘flattened curves’; in socially distanced sing-alongs from windows and balconies; or in the mundane educational imperative of on-line teaching.

Palestine and Palestinians have a particularly chronic relationship with uncertainty and thus a rich and intense engagement with the category of hope. Perhaps most well-known from the Palestinian catalogue of hope is Emile Habibi’s concept of ‘pessoptimism’, which captures the inseparability of hope and despair that marks the Palestinian ethic of persisting in and against untenable conditions (and the absurdities) of being/non-being. Over different periods, Palestine has been fertile ground for projects of liberation or rights and their related solidarities and imagined futurities. It has also been more constantly the site of unrealized hopes and the demise of utopian projects, both normative as well as revolutionary. Much ethnographic work on Palestine has focused on the categories of Sumud (steadfastness) and agency to interrogate the particular resources Palestinians have developed to resist the multiple modes of violence, erasure as well as the perpetual state of uncertainty generated by the Zionist settler colonial project. Here we ask – how might focusing on the category of hope and its related concepts re-orient anthropological knowledge production on Palestine in a direction that embraces uncertainty, flexibility and contingency as declarations of possibility?

As ethnographic work on the category of hope has shown, it is always linked to temporal futures and circumstances of uncertainty. Though it has been primarily associated with optimism and senses of possibility towards the future, the dark side of hope has more recently been the focus of anthropological reflection. Hope can animate transformative and liberatory projects, as well as reactionary and dystopian ones. It can be affirmative, cynical or cruel, as well as radical or magical. It can be an emotion of desperation or of privilege. The very indeterminate quality of hope means it is often a number of these simultaneously.

For the third Insaniyyat conference, we encourage submissions that engage with the wide range of conceptual possibilities that hope as an ethnographic category can open up. This includes papers that inter alia focus on: uncertainty, despair, futurity, nostalgia, imagination, pessoptimism, pessimism, cynicism, affect, ontologies and epistemologies. We seek papers that trace the social life of particular hopes or hope-related practices across Palestinian geographies and temporalities. How might engaging dimensions of hope re-orient research praxis? How might engaging with hope and its linked concepts re-direct some of our epistemological premises? More generally, what does an awareness of these concepts and their valences bring into view?

We welcome a wide range of submissions that engage with hope, uncertainty and their allied concepts in the context of Palestine and Palestinians. This includes (but is not limited to) those that address them through the following themes:The aesthetic or affective lives of hope or its related concepts;Reading or producing hope through performance, cultural production, humor and fantasy;Temporalities or futurities of hope and uncertainty;The relation of nostalgia or trauma to future orientations and world-making projects;The politics and dynamics of hope and hopelessness in social activisms and political movements;Hope and SumudHope and calculabilitySecular and religious valences of hope, uncertainty and despair;The varying social lives of these concepts across Palestinian geographies of rural and urban, “inside” and “outside,” and across forms of Palestinian difference, such as class, gender and sexuality;Hope as methodology and research praxis.
Please send an abstract submission (max 500 words) plus academic bio (max 200 words) by July 1,  2021, to

*Due to the continued lack of access to COVID-19 vaccinations for Palestinians under occupation, as well as the slow roll-out of vaccines in many countries, we have postponed the conference date until January 6-8, 2022, in hopes that the public health situation in the West Bank and globally will permit us to hold a face to face conference. We continue to welcome applicants who can only give on-line presentations in lieu of attending in person. 
Dedicated Graduate Student Workshops
Two closed workshops dedicated to supporting the work of advanced graduate students of anthropology working on Palestine or with Palestinians will be held during the Conference. These aim to support students in developing their research through discussion with peers and faculty mentors, as well as to build professional knowledge networks. Applicants who are graduate students, especially advanced graduate students, are encouraged to apply to either workshop. Note that applicants will not be accepted to both workshops. Please explain your preference in the letter of interest (see below).

 Workshop 1Dissertation Proposal Seminar
Participants in the first closed session will each have dedicated time to workshop their dissertation project proposal with peers and faculty mentors. The purpose of this workshop is to  collaboratively refine individual research proposals or get support for challenges faced at the initial fieldwork stage. Participants’ abstracts will be circulated in advance and each participant will present their project in person. 

RequirementsLetter of interest (500 words), dissertation abstract (500 words), academic biography (100 words), to the following email address:

Deadline for ApplicationsJuly 1, 2021

Workshop 2:  Research Paper Colloquium
The second closed session dedicated to graduate students provides an opportunity to present and receive feedback on written work (draft dissertation chapter or research article). Papers will be pre-circulated and shared with peers and faculty mentors. Participants will make a short (10 minute) presentation of their work and will be required to read the submissions of other participants prior to the colloquium. 

RequirementsLetter of interest (500 words), paper or chapter abstract (500 words), academic biography (100 words), to the following email address:

Deadline for ApplicationsJuly 1, 2021
Deadline for Submission of PapersDecember  6, 2021Travel/Accommodation Grants
 A handful of overseas travel grants and coverage of accommodation expenses are available for graduate students, as well as unemployed/under-employed Faculty. Please note in your academic bio whether you will be seeking a travel and/or accommodation grant and provide a basic explanation/justification of your need for aid in order to attend the conference. Applications for travel and/or accommodation grants are competitive; once all abstracts are confirmed, applicants for grants will be informed as soon as possible of the outcome.