Research seminar in cultural anthropology: Auto Insurrection: Automotion, Pessoptimism and the Ends of Forensics with Peter Lagerqvist

  • Date: –12:00
  • Location: Join Zoom Meeting
  • Lecturer: Peter Lagerqvist
  • Organiser: Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology
  • Contact person: Mats Utas
  • Seminarium

Amidst an upsurge of violence in the occupied West Bank in 2015-2016, reports of Israelis being struck by cars driven by Palestinians began appearing in the Israeli media. The “Auto-Intifada,” as it was dubbed by some outlets, prompted the ‘preemptive’ detention of some 700 hundred Palestinians deemed immanent threats by the Israeli intelligence services, mainly on the basis of social media posts.

In following years, severalkillings of Palestinians, following rammings or near-rammings of Israeli soldiers and settlers, garnered considerable media attention, with many reports suggesting the collisions had been accidental. Such was the conclusion of an investigation into the shooting in January 2017 of a 47 year old Palestinian mathematics teacher, published in 2019 by  the academic research collective Forensic Architecture. As this presentation would argue, however, the particular kind of eventfulness entailed by the notion of 'the accident,' and the conception of agentive, legally attributable action for which the accident is the foil, is not necessarily reflected in the experience that Amahl Bishara has termed “driving while Palestinian.” The presentation seeks to elucidate the implications of this divergence, departing from a  personal account from 2016 of threading a military checkpoint in the West Bank surrounded by Israeli settlers.  Inter alia, I argue that in ‘driving while Palestinian,’ the notion  of the ‘intended accident,’ is not merely possible, but necessary;  constitutive of a politics without hope characterized by the Palestinian literary figure of the Pessoptimist.      

Peter Lagerqvist is an anthropologist completing his Phd at Columbia University, New York.  His thesis traces shifting conceptions of movement in occupied Palestine since the outbreak of the first Palestinian Intifada,  and their implications for how Palestinians conceive of the self, the body, and insurrectionary politics.  He has taught sociocultural anthropology at Columbia University, Uppsala University and Stockholm University.