Dream-Work of Dispossession: The Instance of Elia Suleiman

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VOL. 44


No. 4
P. 32
Dream-Work of Dispossession: The Instance of Elia Suleiman

Essentially a cinema of occupation and dispossession, Palestinian cinema disrupts standard notions of national cinema, complicating conventional expectations of national aesthetics or national dreams. As the borders of Palestine’s historical territory are continuously under erasure, so too are the symbolic boundaries of its language, which is flexible and inventive; the language of Palestinian cinema is a limit-language. No one has expressed this “limit condition” more succinctly than Elia Suleiman, whose cinematic language exemplifies a poetics of dispossession that depicts the asphyxiating spaces and truncated temporalities of Palestinian life with tragic humor and bold fantasy in defiance of narrative simplicity. Suleiman’s films run counter to the conventional representation of Palestinian existence and are arguably the sharpest expressions of what can be deemed to be the dream-work of that existence against its conventional representation.

Stathis Gourgouris is professor and director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University. He is the author of Dream Nation: Enlightenment, Colonization, and the Institution of Modern Greece (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996); Does Literature Think? Literature as Theory for an Antimythical Era (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003); Lessons in Secular Criticism (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013); and the editor of Freud and Fundamentalism: The Psychical Politics of Knowledge (New York: Fordham University Press, 2010). He is also an internationally awarded poet in Greek and a journalist on cultural and political issues in both Greek and English language media.