Diana K. Allan is the Co-director of The Nakba Archive and the director of Lens on Lebanon, a grassroots media collective funded by the Soros Foundation which is documenting the long-term effects of the 2006 conflict with Israel. She is the producer of the documentaries Chatila, Beirut (2002) and is currently working on a book project, Photo48, while completing a doctorate in anthropology and film at Harvard University. Her publications include “Mythologizing al-Nakba: Narratives, Collective Identity and Cultural Practice among Palestinian refugees in Lebanon” Oral History 33(1) (Spring 2005:47-56), “Photo48: Looking at Palestine” Bidoun, September 2005 and “The Politics of Witness,” in Lila Abu Lughod and Ahmad Sa’di (ed.) Faultlines of Memory.
While Palestinian identity was not created by the 1948 displacement, the event has remained an important part of Palestinian history and collective experience, marking the loss of Palestine as a physical entity and its birth as a national signifier. In a recent article, Palestinian historian Elias Sanbar writes: “The contemporary history of Palestinians turns on a key date: 1948. That year, a country and its people disappeared from both maps and dictionaries.”1 Sanbar goes on to foreground the importance of cataloguing these disappearances as a means of creating a cultural and historical inventory of relation to pre-1948 Palestine.
Since many refugees from the generation of 1948 were illiterate few memoirs or journals exist and oral transmission has been the primary means by which this cultural heritage has been preserved.