Mejdulene Bernard Shomali is a queer Palestinian poet and Associate Professor in the Department of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, affiliate faculty in the department of Language, Literacy, and Culture, and the program coordinator for Arab and Muslim American Studies. Her poetry can be read in Copper Nickel, Tinderbox, Diode Press, The Pinch Journal, Mizna, and elsewhere. She has published articles in MELUS, JMEWS, and several edited collections. Her first book, Between Banat: Queer Arab Critique and Transnational Arab Archives is available from Duke University Press.
Palestine Matters: Aesthetics, Embodiment, and Pleasure in Palestine studies how Palestinian bodies experience pleasure and organize resistance amidst Palestine’s subjection to occupation, apartheid, and genocide. In some cases, the experience of pleasure is itself an act of resistance. Palestine Matters centers Palestinian life with specific attention to its materiality, its manifest presence as enacted through bodies—human bodies, bodies of water, and bodies of work. Matter is then both verb and subject: Palestinian pleasure matters and the book studies matters that sustain Palestinian life and resistance. It centers the following questions: What does a theory of Palestinians aesthetics feel like? How do Palestinians use the spaces, bodies, and lands available to them in service of their survival and their joy? Pleasure and joy are feelings which interrupt the pressure of the apartheid state, moments that do not override its violence or imagine a recess of suffering. Instead, sorrow and happiness operate in tension, and both leave bodily traces. The texts examined are intentionally diverse and mobilize different kinds of matter. To formulate a theory of Palestinian aesthetics, the book examines individual and organizational manifestations: poetry and Palestinian museums. To highlight the body, it considers drag performances, queer dance parties, and parasports in Palestine. To articulate how Palestinians produce pleasure as resistance, it studies Palestinian cuisine and the use of recreational spaces like beaches, sports clubs, and bars. These categories cross pollinate: how are bodies of water connected to bodies that dance? How do Palestinian foodways distinguish use of the land? How do Palestinian museums and recreational public spaces navigate the access needs of disabled communities? To make sense of these crossings, the project employs a decolonial, queer, and feminist framework in conjunction with aesthetic and affect studies, performance studies, and disability studies.