The theater of memory: Direct speech in Palestinian oral history

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3 Scopus citations


A striking feature of Palestinian oral history projects is the extensive use that interviewees make of direct speech to communicate their memories—especially those born before the 1948 Arab–Israeli war. They do so irrespective of whether or not they participated in or actually heard the dialogues they wish to convey. This article seeks to characterize and explain this phenomenon. In the interviews conducted by the author—an Arabic-speaking Jew—as well as in other projects, this mode of speech is marked by ease of transition from character to character and between different points in time. It clearly gives pleasure to those engaged in the act of remembering, and it grades readily into a theatrical performance in which tone of speech and the quality of the acting become the main thing. This form of discourse sprang up from the soil of a rural oral culture and still flourishes as a prop for supporting memory, a vessel for collecting and disseminating stories, and a technique for expressing identification with significant figures from the past.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-648
Number of pages16
JournalMemory Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • 1948 war
  • Bedouin tribe
  • Palestinian memory
  • Upper Galilee
  • direct speech
  • ethnography of communication
  • oral history
  • performance studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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