“The Divine Impatience”: Ritual, Narrative, and Symbolization in the Practice of Martyrdom in Palestine



Violence is obscured by habits of thought, which predispose us to reject that which falls outside of our notion of "normal' human behavior. By dismissing as incomprehensible, or "pathologic" embodied practices that do not correspond to a "rationally ordered'' everyday life, some anthropologists concerned with issues of violence forsake a fundamental responsibility to foster an understanding of phenomena that affronts, offends, or questions our own cultural norms and assumptions. Situations of violence, whether due to contextual or individual instability, by definition defy pregiven notions of "rationality" and "normal behavior.” This article is about Palestinian martyrs, youths killed in confrontations with the Israeli military. It seeks to identify the cultural and psychological processes that make Palestinian martyrdom possible within the specific context of Israeli military occupation. It elaborates the ritual, narrative, and symbolic dimensions of a practice that exists within a Palestinian discourse of sacrifice and of national liberation. [Palestinian, martyrdom, embodiment, psychoanalysis, violence]