Luisa Gandolfo

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2014/2015
discipline Sociology
Lecturer in Peace and Reconciliation Studies, University of Aberdeen

Research project

Comparative Discourses of Memory and Trauma in Palestinian and Israeli Art


The union of art and conflict has endured down the centuries, yielding a Janus-faced offspring that gazes both to the past through memory and to the future through aspiration. Two halves of one whole, it encompasses the memory of what was or could have been, providing a utopia to be celebrated or mourned. Prior to 1948 – the birth of Israel, the loss of Palestine, an-Nakbah– Palestinian and Israeli art utilised religious and pastoral motifs that represented the homeland, old and new. After 1948, the two schools reflected on memory, conflict and the land, polemically touching upon loss and gain, sacrifice and security. More recently, Palestinian and Israeli art has converged seeking peace, critical reflection and an acknowledgement of the impact 65 years of unrest has borne on both sides. Amidst the unrest identity is redefined: collective memories renegotiated, historical narratives challenged, and temporal and physical space is subject to Foucauldian heterotopias and heterochronies.


Building on my 2010 paper, ‘Representations of Conflict: Images of War, Resistance, and Identity in Palestinian Art,’ published in Radical History Review, the study will encompass the multiple mediums through which memory, trauma and identity are expressed: formal and informal art forms, comics, cartoons and film. Utilizing the theories of Clifford Geertz, Michel Foucault and Maurice Halbwachs, as well as the discourse of trauma and memory of Michael Rothberg, Susannah Radstone, Dominick LaCapra and Luisa Passerini, the study will explore representations of the Holocaust, an-Nakbah, nationalism, the Other, collective memory, conflict, gender, and religious and national identity, while interviews will be conducted with Palestinian and Israeli artists to gauge the role of identity and memory in their works. In a land of dual narratives, histories and aspirations, the socialization of memory through culture permeates not only Israeli and Palestinian society in Israel, but also the communities outside the land and region. The study will conclude with an analysis of the role of art in the promotion of peace through contemporary collaborative projects that advocate the acknowledgment of trauma and loss as an integral first step towards reconciliation in Palestine-Israel.


While the existing corpus bears foci on the ‘art of resistance’ in Palestine/Israel, the exploration of the expression of memory, trauma and identity through art and popular culture is limited, the core texts comprising Israeli and Palestinian Postcards: Presentations of National Self by Tim Jon Semmerling (2004), Palestinian Art by Gannit Ankori (2006) and Palestinian Art: From 1850 to the Present by Kamal Boullata (2009). Accordingly, upon completion the study will be submitted for publication, with a view to enhance the existing body of literature on art, trauma, memory and identity not only in the Middle East, but in alternative post-conflict environments.




Luisa Gandolfo is Lecturer in Peace and Reconciliation Studies at the Department of Sociology of the University of Aberdeen. She holds a Ph.D in Arab and Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter.  Subsequently, she conducted research on expressions of nationalism and gender and political activism within the Arabic blogosphere and social networks under the auspices of the Centre for Advanced Study of the Arab World (CASAW), at the University of Durham. She also held the Al Tajir lectureship in post-war recovery studies at the University of York, where she engaged in research exploring the role of art and culture in social change in Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt.


Her main research interests are Middle East Studies, Israel/Palestine, Israel Studies, Palestine, Maghreb studies, North Africa Studies. Her research has focused on faith, socioeconomic change, and national and political identities in Jordan, Israel/Palestine and Tunisia. Currently, she is engaged in research concerning the religious and cultural aspects of conflict and peace-building in Palestine/Israel.


Selected publications


'A Primavera da Tunísia islâmica: o legado de Bourguiba', Ciência e Cultura, vol 64, no. 4, 2012, pp. 34-38.


'Birthing Democracy: The Role of Women in the Democratic Discourse of the Middle East', in B. Isakhan & S. Stockwell (eds), The Secret History of Democracy, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2012, pp. 177-191.    


'(Cyber)Palestine and the Quest for a National Identity', in F. Liénard & S. Zlitni (eds), La communication électronique: enjeux de langues, Lambert-Lucas, Limoges, 2011, pp. 45-64.


'Representations of Conflict: Images of War, Resistance, and Identity in Palestinian Art', Radical History Review, vol. 2010, no. 106, 2010, pp. 47-69.


'The Voice of the Youth?: The Emergence of Radical Political Islam in Jordan', in K. Koscielniak (ed.), Dilemmas of Democracy in the Middle East: Cases from Turkey, Jordan and Israel, UNUM Publishing House, Krakow, 2010.


'Who Rules Iran?: Iranian Ambitions', Middle East Quarterly, vol. 17, no. 1, 2010, pp. 61-68.    


'The Political and Social Identities of the Palestinian Christian Diaspora in Jordan', Middle East Journal, vol. 62, no. 3, 2008, pp. 437-455.


'Bridging the Economic Gap: the Rise and Fall of the Middle Class in Jordan', Arab Studies Journal, vol. 15, no. 2, 2008, pp. 100-123.    



senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Political Science
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Law
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Law
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Political Science