Document Type



Presented at the Pragmatism, Law and Governmentality conference held at Cornell Law School on March 28, 2003.


This paper ponders the tide of public discourse which arose in response to the Palestinian martyrdom bombings in the recent Al Aqusa Intifada, in which social scientists and anthropologists have been "active" participants, and where the reasons and causes of this phenomenon have been the centre of debate. The paper questions the value of this analytical posture by placing it next to a habit of everyday discursive practice the author of the paper became aware of during fieldwork with politically active in the First Intifada. People (esp. women) would entertain an instrumentalist explanation of actions or qualities of which they showed themselves in other moments, and in other ways, proud (e.g., mothers, of how clever and courageous their children are in confrontations with Israeli soldiers; young couples of taking up residence with the groom's father's family or in the vicinity) but which they also understood to cause aesthetic offence and moral outrage internationally. The paper asks what posture the anthropologists is to take when people we work with work with this 'global' and critical view on their practices and deploy an instrumentalist perspective as 'ideology' with which they cloak causes and aesthetics they believe in but which offend, for example an attitude that violent death (political 'suicide' and 'murder') is not inevitably anti-aesthetic but meaningful in an obvious way.

Date of Authorship for this Version

December 2002


Instrumentalism, Anthropology, Palestine, Intifada

Jean-Klein notes.doc (47 kB)
Notes for "Palestinian Martyrdom Revisited"