Public Lecture – Lori Allen

Performing Democracy: The Problem of Political Representation in Investigative Commissions to Palestine

Over the past century, the conflict in Palestine has been the subject of tens of fact-finding commissions. Whether sent by western governments or the United Nations, these commissions are usually made up of legal experts, academics, and diplomats, dispatched to hear from witnesses, to understand the reasons for the conflict, and to make recommendations for achieving peace. In this talk, Lori Allen, Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at SOAS and award-winning author, will discuss how changing moral economies, ethical judgments, and forensic readings of emotion shape contemporary politics in Palestine/Israel. She considers these investigative commissions as a liberal colonial device that operates on a pretense to consultation, by persuading contestants to the conflict that dialogue, civility, and democracy are the means to political resolution, and that international management of the conflict is happening on a firm basis of objective fact. In inviting Palestinian leaders and others to present their claims through testimony and argument, inviting them to perform their democratic nature and prove their ability and right to represent their people, commissions act to foster a belief in the existence of a global moral community guided by reason.

Lori Allen is Senior Lecturer in the Dept. of Anthropology ßat SOAS, University of London, and currently a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study. Her work focuses on Palestinian politics, and she has published on topics in the anthropology of nationalism, violence, gender, and human rights. Her first book, The Rise and Fall of Human Rights: Cynicism and Politics in Occupied Palestine, was published in 2013 with Stanford University Press, and won the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology book prize.

This event is presented in partnership with the Scripps College Anthropology Department.