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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter July 31, 2023

Emotional Audiences? From Dispassion to Anger in Elite Palestinian Political Discourse, 1930s–1970s

  • Laura Robson EMAIL logo
From the journal New Global Studies


In the thirty years of British occupation before 1948, elite Palestinian spokesmen understood emotion as a fundamentally ineffective mode of political engagement vis-à-vis a perceived audience of European colonial diplomats. After the nakba, though, as writers like Qustantin Zurayk and ‘Arif al-‘Arif tried to make sense of its traumatic upheavals to new iterations of regional audiences, expressions of emotion began to make new appearances alongside such writings’ abstract appeal to rights. In the 1960s, and particularly after the war of 1967, emotional expression began to take on a rather different valence as writers like Ghassan Kanafani came to understand emotion, and especially the expression of an abstract form of decolonial anger, as a key way to connect with other global audiences and thereby buttress external support for Palestinian political demands. This article, then, seeks to explore changes in the emotional content of Palestinian nationalist literature, and especially the increased rhetorical presence of expressions of anger, as reflections of changes in what we might think of (in a gloss on Barbara Rosenwein’s crucial notion of emotional communities) as “emotional audiences.”

Corresponding author: Laura Robson, Penn State University, University Park, 16802-1503, USA, E-mail:


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Received: 2022-10-27
Accepted: 2023-06-27
Published Online: 2023-07-31

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