A Suggested Reading List on Settler Colonialism

To complement MERIP’s special issue on settler colonialism, this reading list includes books and articles that map the burgeoning field of settler colonial studies. Although the practices of theorizing, teaching and activism are entwined, we broke the list into sections to aid readers who wish to explore settler colonialism and decolonization from slightly different angles.

Genocide, Historical Amnesia and Italian Settler Colonialism in Libya—An Interview with Ali Abdullatif Ahmida

In the late 1920s, the Italian fascist regime implemented a campaign of ethnic cleansing in eastern Libya to create more land for Italian settlers and quell armed resistance to colonization. Ali Abdullatif Ahmida’s new book, Genocide in Libya: Shar, a Hidden Colonial History, examines this forgotten case of settler-colonial violence. Jacob Mundy talks to Ahmida about the genocide, the kind of research methods he had to develop to uncover this history and its present-day relevance.

How the Fishing Industry Strengthened Morocco’s Occupation of Western Sahara

The United Nations considers Western Sahara to be the last African colony. Until 1975 it was a non-self-governing territory legally recognized as being administered by the European colonial power of Spain. Instead of achieving independence when Spain withdrew, Western Sahara and its offshore waters were seized by Morocco in what many observers view as a settler-colonial occupation.

The Question of Palestinian Statehood and the Future of Decolonization

Is statehood the desired end goal of decolonization struggles or is it instead a useful tool along the way to achieving national liberation? The answer to this question has been at the heart of many national liberation movements since the twentieth century. Most struggles for decolonization have pursued the creation of a sovereign independent nation state as a right that is enshrined in international law with the 1960 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514, which defined colonialism as a crime and specified that “all people have an inalienable right to complete freedom, the exercise of their sovereignty and the integrity of their national territory.” This resolution granted colonized people the internationally recognized right to political independence and self-determination.

Indigenous Wine and Settler Colonialism in Israel and Palestine

In 2008 the first Palestinian wine made from indigenous grapes was released, introducing a discourse of primordial place-based authenticity into the local wine field. Six years later, Israeli wineries started marketing a line of indigenous wines. Since then, a growing number of Palestinian and Israeli winemakers and scientists have been using the research, production and marketing of indigenous wines to bolster their historical claims to the land. These producers have emerged in a global era in which terroir—defined as an idiosyncratic combination of soil, climate, culture and history that gives food its distinct taste—shapes economic and cultural value. Against the dominance of international grape varieties, the indigenous turn in the wine world is mobilizing genetics, enology and ancient texts to rewrite the Israeli and Palestinian landscapes.

“But if I don’t steal it, someone else is gonna steal it” – Israeli Settler-Colonial Accumulation by Dispossession

In a video clip widely shared on social media platforms in late April 2021, Mona al-Kurd (a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood) is seen confronting Jacob Fauci (an Israeli Jewish settler from Long Island) in the yard of her family home.[1]Mona al-Kurd speaking with Yaakov Fauci in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, April 2021 (Screen shot from video posted to Instagram.)“Yaakov, you know this is not your house?” she said. “Yes,” he replied, “but if I go you don’t go back [either]. So, what’s the problem? Why are you yelling at me? I didn’t do this. I didn’t do this…It’s easy to yell at me but I didn’t do this,” he categorically responded. “You are stealing my house,” al-Kurd continued, to which Fauci countered, “Yes, but if I don’t steal it, someone else is gonna steal it.”

Settler Entanglements from Citrus Production to Historical Memory

Although settler colonies are often depicted as unique and distinctive, Muriam Haleh Davis argues that analyzing settler colonialism in a global framework reveals their multiple commonalities. Here she examines the large-scale production of citrus in Algeria, Israel and California as one fascinating example of the myriad links—both economic and ideological—that bound different settler-colonial projects. Davis also explores the serious ramifications for historical memory and contemporary politics of viewing these projects as exceptional.

France, a Settler Postcolony?

With the French presidential election currently underway, Olivia C. Harrison’s timely intervention explains the central role that the history and memory of French Algeria continue to play in the country’s politics, culture and society. She shows how the perverse calls by nativist and right-wing groups for the “decolonization of France” and the repatriation of immigrants have been shaped by the experience of settler colonialism and the Algerian War of Independence, with repercussions that go beyond France.

Settler Colonialism in the Middle East and North Africa: A Protracted History

Settler colonial studies developed as a distinct field of research to address the particular circumstances of settler societies. Since its advent in the 1990s, this field has only marginally considered the Middle East and North Africa, focusing instead on the Anglophone settler societies of North America and Australasia. And yet, this neglect is unjustified. Settler colonialism targeted countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and these endeavors were crucial to developing a transnational network of settler-colonial ideas and practices.

Settler Colonialism’s Enduring Entanglements

The spring 2022 issue of Middle East Report, “Settler Colonialism’s Enduring Entanglements,” brings together a wide range of geographic and disciplinary perspectives on settler colonialism from the Middle East, North Africa and the metropole. While there are rich literatures that deal with the two most well-known instances of settler colonialism in the region, French Algeria and Israel and Palestine, these cases have been surprisingly peripheral to the field of settler colonial studies as well as to broader definitions of settler colonialism and understandings of how its legacies shape politics and social life today. We recognize from the outset that settler colonialism is an inherently messy thing to pin down. It is both a process and a concept. In practice, settler colonialism often operates in conjunction with other processes that can effectively mask it, such as nationalism, Indigeneity and sovereignty, to name a few. This issue seeks to pull apart some of those entanglements and to show how settler colonialism in the Middle East has a long past, continues to shape the present and is likely to continue into the future.

Revolution, War and Transformations in Yemeni Studies

Almost twenty years ago, Sheila Carapico made the case for the development of Arabian Peninsula studies as an alternative to the growing field of Gulf studies. A wider regional approach, she argued, would better highlight the numerous connections and flows between Yemen and the six monarchies of the Peninsula. Such a framework is as relevant now as it was then.

“We Don’t Have the Luxury to Stop”—An Interview with Syrian Civil Society Activist Oula Ramadan

Observers often summarize the past ten years in Syria in numbers: more than 500,000 killed, 100,000 disappeared, half the population of 22 million displaced, hundreds of billions of dollars of property destroyed and 90 percent of the population currently living in poverty. These shocking figures lay bare the horror caused primarily by President Bashar al-Asad’s brutal crushing of dissent, as well as the international community’s failure to uphold its responsibility to protect civilians.

The Evolution of Sudan’s Popular Political Forces

On January 30, 2011, a protest took place in Sudan’s capital Khartoum. Inspired by uprisings in other parts of the Arabic-speaking world, such as Tunisia and Egypt, activists announced and promoted the planned demonstration using social media platforms. The protesters demanded significant change: They called for the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir, an end to corruption and high prices for basic goods and they chanted against “the government of hunger.” Their grievances resembled those that ignited the large-scale uprisings of the Arab Spring, but the number of protesters did not exceed 500, not in this protest nor in the few that followed until the end of March. No one factor—the nature of the active political base, the level of oppression or economic realities—can on its own explain why the protest wave that spring did not gain momentum in Sudan.

Whatever Happened to Dignity? The Politics of Citizenship in Post-Revolution Tunisia

Dignity was a principle demand of the 2011 revolution that overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. Nadia Marzouki examines how that demand has informed the practices of youth and other marginalized groups as they mobilize for quotidian causes like clean streets. President Kais Saied’s recent power grab is a different kind of response to the demand for dignity, one that tries to erase corruption rather than confront it through transitional justice. Marzouki explains how the fluid politics of dignity make it an enduring resource for democratic revival.

Egypt From Icon to Tragedy

When masses of people assembled in Egypt’s public squares and succeeded in toppling President Husni Mubarak in 2011, the world went a little bit mad. That an urban uprising unseated one of the contemporary world’s most favored autocrats became freighted with symbolism. The two-week occupation of Tahrir Square was not unprecedented in world politics; Beijing’s Tiananmen Square was methodically held by student-led demonstrators for six weeks in spring 1989 until the military violently dispersed them on June 4. But though Tiananmen received ample international television coverage, it paled in comparison to the attention lavished on Tahrir. One week into the encampment, Egypt’s protests had become the biggest international news story in the US media, surpassing coverage of the Iraq war, the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the US war in Afghanistan.

Dialectics of Hope and Despair in the Arab Uprisings

Alaa Abd El-Fattah and Ahmed Douma, leading Egyptian revolutionaries, wrote these words in 2014 for the Mada Masr piece “Graffiti for Two…Alaa and Douma.” Abd El-Fattah and Douma have spent most of the last decade in jail, much of it in solitary confinement. The uncomfortable coexistence of hope and despair in the experiences of a single revolutionary such as Abd El-Fattah challenge common understandings of the 2011 Arab uprisings. Abd El-Fattah’s story, along with the experiences of so many other individuals, show that it is misleading to conclude that hope for change dominated a decade ago only to be replaced now by despair at failure.

The Enduring Taste of Hope—A Poem and Interview with Khaled Mattawa

Soon after Libyans rose up in protest against the brutal authoritarian regime of Muammar al-Qaddafi in February 2011, the Libyan American poet Khaled Mattawa wrote “Now That We Have Tasted Hope.” His poem powerfully captured the mix of relief and anguish, despair and hope felt by many who participated in, or were inspired by, the Arab uprisings and was widely shared. In addition to presenting the poem here, Atef Said interviewed Mattawa about the poem, poetry’s relationship to revolution and his work supporting artists in Libya.


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