Teaser Webinar #6 – Webinars Series in honour of Sally Engle Merry (1944-2020)

“Vernacularizing Bureaucracy and Quantifying Violence: The Writing of Palestinians’ Testimonies in Israeli Human Rights NGOs”
by Omri Grinberg (Hebrew University of Jerusalem and University of Haifa)
Discussant: Sylvie Bodineau (York University)

Friday 26 March – 2-3.30 pm CET
Webinar Link: https://zoom.us/j/93210372616?pwd=dTZZbm1BSlB3MEJHMzhQaHhybGpTdz09#success
ID: 93210372616
Password: 4JzWZ6

This paper examines the writing of Palestinians’ testimonies by Israeli NGOs documenting the violence of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Its analytical framework is based on two of Sally Engle Merry’s main theoretical and thematic contributions to the study of human rights (HR) and NGOs: NGOs’ vernacularization of HR, and quantification of violence.
Since the first anti-occupation Israeli NGOs were founded in the late 1980s, they have relied on the same methodology for gathering data, and use the same main mode of representation: Palestinian witnesses’ narrations and their iterations as written testimony documents. In my dissertation research about the everyday bureaucracies of such NGOs, I found that this testimony-axis was shaped by two distinct activists groups who formed these NGOs: one of lawyers, and the other includes NGO activists and would-be professionals who were not legal experts, yet adamantly propagated legal-professionalism as the ideal mode for promoting HR.
Using data from participant-observation fieldwork in Israeli NGOs (2015-2016), I will highlight the bureaucratization of testimony-writing, and NGOs’ processes of classifying, listing and quantifying Palestinians’ experiences of Israel’s violence as HR violations. As I suggest, the primary (though not exclusive) designation of these HR vernacularizations, is not making HR speak to and for Palestinians vis-à-vis Israel and transnational institutions and audiences. Rather, the dominant element vernacularized is the bureaucracy of HR writing: Palestinians’ testimonies about the violence of Israel’s occupation is still bound by the 1980s vernacular of HR, which was shaped through NGOs’ ideological imperatives of the time.


WEBINAR SERIES in honour of SALLY ENGLE MARRY (1944-2020)

Link: https://allegralaboratory.net/webinar-series-in-honour-of-sally-engle-merry-1944-2020/

This series of online seminars features presentations that examine the current state of legal anthropology. Contributors will present ethnographic studies of bureaucracies, national courts, international tribunals, truth commissions, human rights and other international governance processes. These webinars are dedicated to Sally Engle Merry, Professor of anthropology at New York University, president of the Law and Society Association, the American Ethnological Society, and the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology, who passed away on September 8, 2020, and whose pioneer work on culture and rights, gender violence, and indicators has been highly influential on the subdiscipline and beyond. In memory of her generosity as a teacher and colleague, and in line with her innovative spirit and gentle soul, the seminars are an opportunity for young and more established scholars to engage in vigorous conversations on legal matters of critical relevance to contemporary societal debates.

Co-organised by Allegra Lab and EASA LawNet.