Literature as Archive: A Reading & Conversation with Elias Khoury and Susan Abulhawa


Location: Live on Zoom


Elias Khoury, born in Beirut, is the author of thirteen novels, four volumes of literary criticism, and three plays.   He was awarded the Palestine Prize for Gate of the Sun, which was named Best Book of the Year by Le Monde Diplomatique, The Christian Science Monitor, and The San Francisco Chronicle, and a Notable Book by The New York Times.  Khoury’s Yalo, White Masks, Little Mountain, The Journey of Little Gandhi, City Gates, and Children of the Ghetto are also available in English. Khoury is a Global Distinguished Professor of Middle Eastern and Arabic Studies at New York University, and has taught at Columbia University, the Lebanese University, the American University of Beirut, and the Lebanese American University. As Though She Were Sleeping received France’s inaugural Arabic Novel Prize.

Susan Abulhawa is a novelist, poet, essayist, scientist, mother, and activist.  Her debut novel Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury, 2010), translated into 30 languages, is considered a classic in Anglophile Palestinian literature.  Its reach and sales has made abulhawa the most widely read Palestinian author.  Her second novel, The Blue Between Sky and Water (Bloomsbury, 2015), was likewise an international bestseller.  Against the Loveless World (Simon & Schuster, 2020) was out in August.  She is also the author of a poetry collection, My Voice Sought The Wind (Just World Books, 2013), contributor to several anthologies, political commentator, and frequent speaker.  Abulhawa is the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, a children’s organization dedicated to uplifting Palestinian children.  She is also co-chair of Palestine Writes, the first North American Palestinian literature festival.

This conversation will be introduced by Hana Morgenstern, University Lecturer in Postcolonial and the Middle East Literature at Cambridge University and a Fellow at Newnham College and will be moderated by Hilary Rantisi, Associate Director of the Religion, Conflict and Peace Initiative and Senior Fellow at the Religious Literacy Project at Harvard Divinity School, Mezna Qato, historian of the modern Middle East and Margaret Anstee Centre Research Fellow at Newnham College at Cambridge University, and Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, Director of Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame.  This event is co-sponsored and co-organized with Archives of the Disappeared Research Seminar, University of Cambridge and the Religion, Conflict, and Peace Initiative at Harvard University.  

Dr. Hana Morgenstern is a scholar, writer, and translator. She is University Lecturer in Postcolonial and Middle East Literature at Cambridge University and a Fellow at Newnham College. Dr Morgenstern is co-director of the Documents of the Arab Left and the Revolutionary Papers projects and co-convener of the Archives of the Disappeared seminar. She is currently at work on a book manuscript titled, Literary Infiltrators: Anticolonial Collaboration in Palestine/Israel. 

Hilary Rantisi, Associate Director of the Religion, Conflict and Peace Initiative and Senior Fellow at the Religious Literacy Project at Harvard Divinity School.  She has over a decade and a half of experience in institution building at Harvard. Previously, she was Director of the Middle East Initiative (MEI) at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She received her Master’s degree in Middle East Studies from the University of Chicago. Prior to joining Harvard, she worked with civil society organizations in Israel-Palestine, which focused on religion, politics, and grassroots mobilization efforts in Jerusalem. She co-edited Our Story: The Palestinians in 1999, and has been an active public speaker on issues pertaining to the Middle East region. Hilary is a native Arabic speaker.

Dr. Mezna Qato is historian of the modern Middle East, and in particular of migration, development, and social histories of Palestinian refugee and exile communities. She was previously a Spencer Fellow at the National Academy of Education, and Junior Research Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge. She is currently completing a book on the history of education for Palestinians.  Her research and teaching interests centre on histories and theories of social, economic and political transformation amongst refugee and stateless communities, the politics and practice of archives, and global micro-histories of movements and collectivities in the Middle East. She also co-convenes the Archives of the Disappeared research seminar at the Margaret Anstee Centre and the Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities.

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi is the author of Call Me Zebra, winner of the 2019 PEN/Faulkner Award, the John Gardner Fiction Award and longlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award. She is a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree and a Whiting Writers Award Winner. Her novel, Savage Tongues, is forthcoming in 2021. She is the Director of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Notre Dame and a Fellow of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. 

Literatures of Annihilation, Exile, and Resistance, launched by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, is a research collective and lecture series co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, and housed at the newly launched Initiative on Race and Resilience, directed by Mark Sanders, Professor of English and Africana Studies. The series focuses on contemporary literature, film, and visual art that has been shaped by revolutionary and resistance movements, decolonization, migration, class and economic warfare, communal and state-sanctioned violence, and human rights violations. We aim to theorize new modes of contemporary literary and artistic resistance across national borders and to amplify the voices of scholars, artists, and writers of color whose lived experience is instrumental in forging new alliances across formal, linguistic and national boundaries.