Mastering Submission: Palestinian Poets Measuring Sounds of “Freedom”

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This article examines how Palestinian poets experience “freedom” when they compose with traditional rhythms in Arabic verse. In analyzing narratives by poets on their introduction to, training in, and mastery of metrical discipline, I argue that these seemingly “technical” practices host an exercise of “freedom” strikingly at odds with dominant liberal modalities, which pit freedom against submission. In contrast with modernizing poets who posit sovereignty of the self as a prerequisite for freedom, poets who vindicate metrical composition measure their sounds in an aliberal space of “freedom,” which then enables them to contest various forms of authority in society. This study illustrates the analytical possibilities that become available to an ethnographic inquiry into “freedom” when surrendering normative liberal paradigms of self-sovereignty. [freedom, poetry, ethics, liberalism, Palestine].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-710
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2018


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