Skip to main navigation Skip to main content
The University of Southampton
The Parkes Institute

Disrupted Families: Representing Jewish and Palestinian Histories in Contemporary British Culture Seminar

14 June 2022
Avenue Campus, Builiding 65, Room 1097.

For more information regarding this seminar, please telephone Clodagh Owens on 023 80598427 or email .

Event details

Part of the Parkes Institute research seminars series.


This paper first gives an overview of my second monograph, entitled Reimagining Israel and Palestine in Contemporary British and German Culture, which I am currently completing. This book traces an important shift in how German and British culture have engaged with both Israel and Palestine since the 1987. The first Palestinian Intifada (1987-1993) significantly changed international perceptions about the power dynamics at the heart of encounters between Israelis and Palestinians, including challenging ideas about Israeli victimhood and legitimising Palestinian demands for self-determination. Together with the rise of comparative genocide studies in the 1980s, the first Intifada paved the way for discussions about comparative memories and histories, particularly those juxtaposing Jewish memories of the Holocaust with other memories of suffering. It then moves on to a specific case study by discussing how family is used as a trope to challenge ideologies that separate Jewish and Palestinian peoples and their histories. In Claire Hajaj’s novel Ishmael’s Oranges (2014) this manifests itself through an emphasis on the conjugal bond between a Jewish woman and a Palestinian man, their respective histories, as well as through their Jewish-Palestinian children. In Hugo Blick’s mini-series The Honourable Woman (2014), the family as a primary locus for alliances is questioned by the friendship between a Palestinian and a Jewish character and the presence of a Jewish-Palestinian child. By disrupting traditional models of kinship based on shared ethnicity and instead imagining alternative alliances, both Hajaj and Blick consider how families and the ideologies that they transmit contribute to the exclusion of the “other” and those that are seen as outside the collective national or ethnic community. Hence, they not only challenge perceptions of Jewish and Palestinian histories as separate but they also foreground how ideas of kinship are used in politics and international relations, both in the United Kingdom and in Israel.


Dr Isabelle Hesse is Senior Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Sydney, and Visiting Fellow at the Parkes Institute in May and June 2022. Her research is situated at the intersection of postcolonial, Jewish and Middle Eastern Studies. She is the author of The Politics of Jewishness in Contemporary World Literature: The Holocaust, Zionism, and Colonialism (Bloomsbury, 2016) and co-editor of Literary Representations of the Palestine/Israel Conflict After the Second Intifada (Edinburgh University Press, 2022). She is currently completing her second monograph, which examines the representation of Israel and Palestine in contemporary British and German Culture.

Privacy Settings