Decolonising Narrative: Voice, Solidarity and Social Media

“Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”
Opening with a proverb cited by late Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, international guest speaker Yousef Aljamal brought his firsthand account of life in a Gazaan refugee camp to 19 Tory this Thursday.

The evening, which was organised by Students for Justice in Palestine was hosted to facilitate a discussion on the increasingly intertwined roles of narrative, solidarity activism, social media and the creative decentralisation of corporate media control. All themes that resonate with the ideals of the Concerned Citizen’s collective and community.

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Yousef Aljamal, who is a 24 year old refugee, blogger, translator and youth development worker on a speaking tour of Aotearoa was joined by Dougal MacNeill, a Wellington-based anti-imperialist activist and lecturer in post-colonial literature.

Dougal began by challenging popular axioms about social media, arguing that all media, is in fact social, as it stems from communication. He also stressed an important caveat regarding the iteration that social media in and of itself manufactures change or voice. This invention denies the existence of a rich history of Palestinian literature, song, poetry and oral and written political struggle. What social media does provide, he argues, is a greater ability for us to listen and hear each-others realities, bypassing forms of media which have typically flattened, victimised and demonised Palestinians and denied them agency. With illustrative commitment to Palestinian voice Dougal quoted many-a Palestinian literary legend and poet, Dougal’s full talk, which I highly recommend, can be read here.

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Yousef Aljamal spoke candidly about the necessity that Palestinians tell their own stories. Yousef is translating the Palestinian story alongside a generation of emerging young Palestinian bloggers, mostly women. This generation are utilising online avenues to explore their personal and collective stories and also, to fight a sleek, well-funded campaign of distortion by the Israeli state and military, and winning. He also noted the ability that social media such as twitter gives us to overcome geographical restrictions and distances, and connect in our global solidarity efforts, instantaneously. You can read Yousef’s blog here.

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The room then broke down into an informal discussion around a range of related topics. One audience member highlighted both the simplicity and accessibility of social media as a tool, while another reminded us it allowed for complexity and access to a diversity of voices too. We discussed how we could best amplify the voices of Palestinians, avoid the traps of paternalistic narratives, social media in the Arab uprisings, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and in the spirit of Tory Street, some inspiring ideas for action and future participation. A fruitful night, incredible discussion and some important challenges for our future work.

Report by Nadia Abu-Shanab

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