Birzeit University's Instructor Bayan Haddad Awarded George Antonius Fellowship

Bayan Haddad, an instructor in the Department of English Language and Literature, received the George Antonius Birzeit Visiting Fellowship to work on a comparative literary reading of Northern Ireland and Palestine. The project aims to explore ways that literature by contemporary Northern Irish and Palestinian writers allows for an engagement with the legacies of their societies’ traumatic past while navigating the present material world in their socio-political contexts. 

Haddad joined the English Language and Literature Department in 2018 and holds a master’s degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Edinburgh, the UK.  She had professional experience in the non-governmental organization (NGO) sector working as an interpreter at Doctors without Borders (MSF) and a volunteer researcher at Hebron Rehabilitation Centre (HRC) and Youth Against Settlements (YAS). She serves as an advisory board member of Land Research Centre (LRC), an NGO that produces research on human rights and natural resources management where Haddad previously worked as a translator. Commenting on her experience, Haddad writes, “I am grateful for everyone behind this precious opportunity. The interactions, space, and resources are truly valuable. I am constantly reminded that ‘we have to use our words, however futile they may feel.’ Questions about the roles of writers and educators are increasingly more important in such critical times, and I am exploring them.”

Haddad participated in an event titled “Reading Gaza!” organized by Arab Women Artists Now (AWAN) in London to discuss how Gaza informs one’s literary education and teaching. Haddad also gave talks at the campuses of the University of Cambridge, Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), and Ulster University in Derry~Londonderry as part of an initiative titled “Campus Voices for Palestine: Education for Liberation from Apartheid, Occupation and Genocide” organized by the University and College Union (UCU), the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES) Campaigns and QUB Palestine Assembly. Haddad also delivered an online presentation as part of the EXCEPT Palestine event series co-badged by the Staff-Student Solidarity Network at the University of Edinburgh. In London, Haddad participated in the Palestine organising assembly to discuss meaningful interventions to stop the UK’s enablement of the genocide. Commenting on the student encampments for Gaza at universities in the UK and worldwide, Haddad shared the following with the audience: “In Arabic a university campus is called ‘the sanctuary of the university’. It is a sacred space. It is so through students’ rejection of hypocrisy and commitment to truth. Students, as we are reminded by Birzeit University professor Roger Heacock, ‘live by the rules of an unspoken flame, the flame of truth-telling, and truth-living.’” 

In those events, Haddad also shed light on the academic life at Birzeit University under the Israeli occupation including the oppressive dailiness, restrictions of movement, detention of students, and campus raids. She also talked about the educide in Gaza and highlighted the Birzeit University’s initiative to support students and higher academic institutions in Gaza. Haddad called on academics and students to take action to stop the ongoing scholasticide and to act on intersectional and transnational solidarity.

“As an educator,” Haddad asserts, “my job includes facilitating people’s access to knowledge and nudging them towards credible resources. I have been doing that in my capacity of being here. As for my research project, it includes interviewing the authors under study to gauge their social concerns and motives behind their writing.” 

Through this comparative project, Haddad hopes to bring authors into conversation to highlight their employment of various representational practices and expressions in bearing witness to colonial trauma and tackling themes of social importance, including the entanglement of the political and the domestic, the past and present, and the individual and the collective. The project also comments on the authors’ ability to use fiction to allow for a reconsideration of the past in a way that challenges theories of linear history and traditional trauma models.