Echoes of Exile

DOIhttps://doi.org/10.13169/arabstudquar.46.1.0009
Published date19 January 2024
Pages9-27
Date19 January 2024
AuthorSajjad Gheytasi
Subject MatterPalestinian Experiences,Intergenerational Analysis,Identity,Residual Elements,Resistance
ECHOES OF EXILE
Rememory and Resistance in
Salt Houses
Sajjad Gheytasi
Submission date: September 4, 2023; Acceptance date: October 15, 2023;
Publication date: January 19, 2024
Copyright
© 2024, Sajjad Gheytasi. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of
the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY) 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any
medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Abstract: This article delves into the intricacies of memory, resistance, and identity within
the context of Palestinian experiences, as portrayed in Hala Alyan’s novel, Salt Houses. This
study examines the profound impact of rememory on the collective consciousness of a Pal-
estinian family haunted by forced expulsions, upheavals, and the enduring cycle of occupa-
tion and forced migrations. The essay underscores that residual elements of past are not a
passive recollection but active agents that shape the present and future. It highlights how
traumatic pasts, passed down through generations, become an enduring legacy, connecting
history with contemporary realities. Drawing on the characters’ experiences, it showcases
how the struggle for identity and resistance against displacement is interwoven with the
memory of ancestral trauma. Furthermore, the research explores the role of elder Palestin-
ians, especially grandmothers, in preserving cultural heritage and transmitting stories that
bridge generations. These narratives serve not only to understand history but also as a means
of challenging occupation and advocating for the right of return. The article investigates the
dissonance between imagined homelands and present-day realities, shedding light on the
challenges faced by subsequent generations attempting to reclaim their heritage.
Keywords: Palestinian Experiences, Intergenerational Analysis, Identity, Residual
Elements, Resistance
Here is Palestine, he would think. Here are the streets we’d walk in Nablus, the
neighborhood we grew up in. Here is everything we loved. (Alyan, 2017: 244)
Sajjad Gheytasi is Assistant Professor of English literature at Payame Noor University (PNU), Tehran,
Iran
DOI:10.13169/arabstudquar.46.1.0009
10 ARAB STUDIES QUARTERLY
www.plutojournals.com/asq/
Introduction
Hegemony theory offers a fresh perspective by emphasizing the diversity of strug-
gles and the multifaceted power dynamics at play, departing from the conventional
binary viewpoint. Moreover, within the intricate tapestry of hegemonic discourse,
active rememory (Morrison, 1987: 135) has the potential to form alliances, work-
ing to challenge and disrupt the prevailing hegemonic discourse. Frequently, shifts
in hegemonic power coincide with moments of crisis. Alain Badiou characterizes
such moments as “events,” which represent a rupture in the established boundaries
of what can be articulated within the dominant discourse, something that the exist-
ing knowledge system cannot comprehend, not even in hindsight (Badiou, 2005).
These events do not become assimilated into the dominant discourse. Instead, they
bring about radical transformations by repeatedly introducing disruptive voices
into the prevailing hegemonic discourses, fundamentally altering them.
It is worth exploring the causal relationship between political events and dis-
course. In this sense, narrative construction and rememory play a pivotal role in
shaping the political landscape, essentially laying the groundwork for transforma-
tive change. Moreover, we must acknowledge that the impact of these efforts can
differ significantly between authoritarian and democratic societies. However, it is
significant to consider instability within the prevailing political system that
enforces specific memory narratives. If there is no structural crisis to expedite this
change, these coalitions must evolve gradually to attain the necessary cohesion to
supplant the dominant discourse. This process, reminiscent of Gramsci’s concept
of “war of position,” (Gramsci, 2007: 139) requires time and persistence. Once the
equilibrium of hegemonic discourse is disrupted, it does not automatically lead to
the emergence of a unified counter-discourse. At the conclusion of the counter-
hegemonic struggle, it is unlikely that a single, collective discourse will encom-
pass all formerly subaltern memory groups. Instead, divisions among them are
likely to persist, and the eventual formation of a new hegemonic memory culture
won’t fully represent the entirety of those involved in the cultural memory revolu-
tion. Lachmann observes that “preserving cultural memory involves something
like an apparatus for remembering by duplication, by the representation of the
absent through the image, by the objectification of memory, and by the prevention
of forgetting through the retrieval of images” (Lachmann, 2004: 166). When it
comes to preserving and amassing cultural knowledge, literary texts play a crucial
role by existing within the intricate web of cultural memory. Within this intricate
tapestry, a fantastical text serves as a powerful pointer, directing our attention
towards those suppressed and forgotten aspects of our collective memory, thus
compelling culture to confront its own tendency to forget and ignore certain
narratives.

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