2022/ 2023

Refqa Abu-Remaileh

EUME-CNMS Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 2014-16

PalREAD – Country of Words: Reading and Reception of Palestinian Literature from 1948 to the Present

Previous Fellowships: 2021/ 2022, 2020/ 2021, 2019/ 2020, 2018/ 2019, 2017/ 2018, 2016/ 2017, 2015/ 2016, 2014/ 2015, 2013/ 2014, 2012/ 2013

is a Professor of Modern Arabic Literature and Film at Freie Universität Berlin’s Arabic Department. She is the Principal Investigator of the ERC project “PalREAD – Country of Words: Reading and Reception of Palestinian Literature from 1948 to the Present”. She received her DPhil (PhD) and Masters in Oriental Studies and Modern Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Oxford (2010, 2004), and her BA in English Literature from the University of British Columbia (2002). In 2012-13, she was a EUME Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin. From 2014-16, she was an Alexander von Humboldt postdoctoral Fellow affiliated with EUME and continues to be affiliated with EUME to the present. She has also worked with the London-based charity Oxford Research Group as a consultant on their Palestine-Israel projects.


PalREAD – Country of Words: Reading and Reception of Palestinian Literature from 1948 to the Present

PalREAD aims to tell the story of Palestinian literature by tracing, collecting, mapping and analyzing the development and evolution of Palestinian literary and cultural production and practices from 1948 to the present across various Arab, European, American, and Latin American countries. The project aims to take a holistic approach to researching authors and literary texts: their trajectories, production, reading sites, reception, and circulation. PalREAD is a 5-year (2018-2023) European Research Council (ERC) funded project, hosted at Freie Universität Berlin (Germany).

Project page

Twitter: @PalREAD_ERC

2017/ 2018

Contrapuntal Fragments: Palestinian Narratives and the Search for the Whole

Part of a larger project, this phase of the research will build on previous work to explore questions around contrapuntal Palestinian literary and filmic narratives. Taking a closer look at the layering devices, the research questions will pay particular attention to the role of the reader and the construction of silence in these narratives. The musical concept of counterpoint as discussed in Edward Said’s On Late Style (2007) will be expanded to literary and film narratives to explore whether it can also be a space for invention, reinvention and reworking to yield new harmonic insights. Through a close reading of select Palestinian novels and films, this project seeks to analyze how layering devices, polyphony and counterpoint can free a text from the clutches of convention, breaking down rigid categories and hierarchies between author, narrator, character and reader, to lead to the possibility of more equal, ethical and democratic narratives.

2016/ 2017

Polyphone Palestine: Literary Humanism & Narrative Production

Part of a larger project, this first year of research will build and expand on previous work to explore questions around modern Palestinian narratives, humanism, and literary and cultural legacies. Following Edward Said’s Humanism and Democratic Criticism (2004), a humanist approach will be adopted to initiate a process of reading together of two or more subjects, issues, and histories in a contrapuntal fashion. Unlike the classical humanist tradition – binaristic, identitarian, univocal, Eurocentric –, the contemporary philological humanism Said calls for seeks to hold and contain difference; cultivates a sense of multiple worlds and interacting traditions, maintaining rather than resolving tensions, excavating silences and places of exclusion and invisibility, and ultimately providing an oppositional analysis as part of search for knowledge, justice and emancipation. As a case study, Palestinian literary and filmic narratives will form the basis for the first part of a series of journal articles exploring processes of reading together across histories and disciplines towards a rethinking of canon formations and understanding the shaping and reshaping of cultural and narrative production in a context of ongoing conflict and fragmentation.


Resistance and Subversion in Palestinian Literature and Film: Seeking New Comparative Dimensions

Subversion and resistance have been persistent throughout the different periods of Palestinian literature and film. Having gone through various iterations, the two elements combined were brought to the fore in the literary works of Emile Habibi and the films of Elia Suleiman, both of whom have had a deep influence on later generations. Without conventionally ‘telling’ the story of Palestinians, their works counter-narrate through inverted histories, silences, absences and disappearances. My doctoral thesis examined a creative fascination with a process of documenting in the works of Habibi and Suleiman and identified the ways in which their experimental and satirical works broke new aesthetic grounds in depicting the absurdities, paradoxes and ironies of the lives of Palestinians in Israel.

Inspired by new dimensions that emerged out of my doctoral research, my project aims, in the first year, to trace and contextualise elements of counter-narration and subversion across time periods and genres. In the second year, I will build on my findings to zoom out and analyse more broadly works of the post-Oslo generation of Palestinian writers and filmmakers. Using a methodology of close reading and formal analysis, combined with an understanding of the sociopolitical context, the focus on resistance and subversion can contribute to an understanding of the ways in which works challenge the hegemony of both the occupation and blind nationalism and renegotiate the meaning of collective memory, time, and history.

2013/ 2014

Narrative Entanglements: An Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Approach to Palastinian Literature and Film

She was a EUME Fellow in 2012-2013 and worked on a book project expanding upon her doctoral dissertation. Her new project looks at the aesthetics of resistance and subversion in the works of the post-Oslo generation of Palestinian writers and filmmakers.