Sumūd the nonviolent everyday practices or resistance by Palestinians to Israeli occupation.
In Palestine, the practice of “sumūd,” directly translated as steadfastness (Richter-Devroe, 2011) or persistence (Johansson and Vinthagen, 2014), has come to characterize the nonviolent everyday practices or resistance by Palestinians to Israeli occupation. Specifically, sumūd is resistance to the planning practices of the Israeli state, including the creation of checkpoints, settlements, roads, and walls, which spatially confine or restrict movement of Palestinians. Given the changing nature of the occupation over time and across space, the term sumūd has inspired a variety of interpretations of what constitutes resistance; nevertheless, an ethos of staying ‘rooted in the land’ underlies all practices.
The everyday practices of sumūd by Palestinian women, in particular, has been described by as “a uniquely Palestinian tactic” whereby they seek to live with dignity despite uncertainty (Ryan, 2015). Practices of sumūd are often individual, covert, informal, and non-organized, and encompass a wide range of activities including upholding cultural traditions such as weddings and holidays; maintaining a sense of normalcy; engaging in micro-enterprises; passing on songs and folklores despite threats to personal safety and surveillance; and documenting the Palestinian struggle through writing, protest art and wall graffiti. Another tactic is for women to refuse to leave their country for better opportunities abroad, which is a particularly important symbolical counterpoint to the Zionist premise that Jewish people are the only rightful inhabitants of the land. On other occasions, women cross checkpoints despite potential violence or encounters with military in order to visit family members and go on trips.
The uniqueness of sumūd is that, while the practices may be done in individual or informal small groups, most of the time it is not through a “centralized political strategy” (Johansson and Vinthagen, 2014, p.114). Rather, women’s sumūd are practices of the everyday, where daily acts can be better understood as resistance to a constant “state of exception” (after Agamben, 2005) (Johansson and Vinthagen, 2014), as Palestinians negotiate, manipulate and alter the ways in which their lives are restricted or structured by the occupation. Several authors refer to Scott’s (1985) notion of “infrapolitics” to describe the types of informal, non-organized resistance by women, where politics takes on a different form because of the oppressive nature of the situation.
Concurrently, Asef Bayat’s (2000) concept of “quiet encroachment” is also useful in describing the practices under the umbrella of sumūd. From Bayat’s perspective, Scott’s work lacks a nuanced understanding of the various forms of resistance that people might engage in (including distinctions between individual and group-scale action), and also that it does not leave room for non-intentional activities that produce major changes in the lives of the agents. Instead, Bayat uses the concept of quiet encroachment to refer to those “fresh demands” that are made by the oppressed based through their everyday actions, rather than the forms of resistance that overtly deny impositions made by the oppressor. Bayat posits that 1) everyday practices can be understood as a response to the state, and that 2) these practices are often not a deliberate political act but rather emerge out of a necessity for survival.
Practices of sumūd can be understood as examples both of Scott’s (1985) infrapolitics and Bayat’s (2000) quiet encroachment. While there seems to be consensus that practices of sumūd are generally non-violent and do not constitute overt, large-scale collective action, there is a wide range of examples from outward resistance to daily survival tactics that are described under the umbrella of sumūd. Here, assemblage thinking might be useful to conceptualize how such practices relate to each other, specifically because the practices are so dependent on when and where they are taking place and who is performing the action. For example, resistance practices by women in the West Bank after the second intifada, or the second uprising in response to Israeli occupation, are described as very different than the practices pursued after the first intifada (Richter-Devroe, 2011). In this way, and particularly because the occupation is so tied to the land, the relationship between time, space, and agents of resistance is critical. Specifically, if we deploy Colin McFarlane’s (2009) relational concept of assemblage, we see how these resistance movements are not only composed of individual moments of (everyday or overt resistance) but also have emergent qualities as they come together across a given space at a given time. In Palestine, this fluidity is reflected in the shifting tactics of sumūd over time, and is reflective of the ever-changing spatial and physical impositions placed on Palestinians.
Further, women’s practices of sumūd shed light on the importance of understanding various scales of resistance within planning discourse, specifically the scale of the home and the body. In contexts of severe violence, the “home” becomes an important site of both safety and resistance. In the case of Palestinian women, the home becomes a critical site for preserving “normalcy” for the sake of themselves, their families, and their children. While planners do not control what takes place within the home, how do we learn more from and accommodate this lived reality? Similarly, understanding how women literally embody resistance is not typically discussed in planning. In the case of Palestine, women choosing to wear the “hijab,” the head scarf, or short sleeves and sunglasses to not be recognized as Palestinian (Richter-Devroe, 2011) are examples of resistance acts where women are altering their body. For planners working in international contexts and truly committed to understanding how oppression is resisted by everyday practices, it is critical to examine various scales of resistance to better understand the oppressive functions and emancipatory potentials of planning. Indeed, the typical scales of neighborhood-city-country deployed in planning may in themselves be oppressive, requiring them to be deconstructed in order to examine how individuals become agents of resistance.
- Agamben, G. (1998). Homo sacer: sovereign power and bare life. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.
- Appadurai, Arjun. 2001. Deep democracy: urban governmentality and the horizon of politics. Environment & Urbanization 13: 23-40.
- Bailey Bergamin, G. (2013). Valparaíso, ciudadanía patrimonial: Un mandato de orden artificial. Retrieved April 27, 2016, from http://www.eltopo.cl/valparaiso-ciudadania-patrimonial-un-mandato-de-orden-artificial
- Bayat, A. (2000). From `Dangerous Classes’ to `Quiet Rebels’ Politics of the Urban Subaltern in the Global South. International Sociology, 15(3), 533–557.
- Constable, N. (1997). Sexuality and Discipline among Filipina Domestic Workers in Hong Kong. American Ethnologist, 24(3), 539–558.
- de Certeau, M. (1984). The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- De Guzman, O. (2003). Overseas Filipino Workers, Labor Circulation in Southeast Asia, and the (Mis)management of Overseas Migration Programs. Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, 1(4). Retrieved from http://kyotoreview.org/issue-4/overseas-filipino-workers-labor-circulation-in-southeast-asia-and-the-mismanagement-of-overseas-migration-programs/
- Elshahed, M. (2011). Tahrir Square: Social media, public space. Places Journal.
- Ennis, M., & Quijano, A. (2000). Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America. Nepantla: Views from South, 1(3), 533–580.
- Encountering Development : The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- Gaffney, C. T. (2015). The mega-event city as neo-liberal laboratory: the case of Rio de Janeiro. Percurso Acadêmico, 0(0), 217–237.
- Grosfoguel, R. (2000). Developmentalism, modernity, and dependency theory in Latin America. Nepantla: Views from South, 1(2), 347–374.
- Hale, C. R. (2006). More Than an Indian. Asociación para el Avance de las Ciencias Sociales en Guatemala.
- Hou, J. (Ed.). (2010). Insurgent Public Space: Guerrilla Urbanism and the Remaking of Contemporary Cities (1 edition). New York: Routledge.
- Johansson, A., & Vinthagen, S. (2014). Dimensions of everyday resistance: an analytical framework. Critical Sociology, 1-19, doi: 0896920514524604.
- Justice Centre of Hong Kong. (2016). Coming Clean (p. 43). Hong Kong. Retrieved from http://www.justicecentre.org.hk/comingclean/
- Kamel, N. (2012, April 1). Tahrir Square: The Production of Insurgent Space and Eighteen Days of Utopia. Progressive Planning, Spring 2012 (191), 36-39. Retrieved March 29, 2016, from http://www.plannersnetwork.org/2012/04/spring-2012-occupy/
- Koch, Florian. 2015. The rules of the game and how to change them: Urban planning between formal and informal practices. A Colombian case study. International Planning Studies 20 (4): 407-423
- Kuttab, E. (2010). Empowerment as Resistance: Conceptualizing Palestinian women’s empowerment. Development 53(2), 247-253.
- Larkin, C. (2014). Jerusalem’s separation wall and global message board: Graffiti, murals, and the art of sumud. Arab Studies Journal22(1), 134.
- Law, L. (2001). Home Cooking: Filipino Women and Geographies of the Senses in Hong Kong. Cultural Geographies, 8(3), 264–283.
- Lefebvre, Henri. 1968. L’droit a la ville.
- Lefebvre, H. (1974). The Production of Space. Oxford, UK ; Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell.
- McFarlane, C. (2009). Translocal assemblages: space, power and social movements. Geoforum 40(4), 561-567.
- Miraftab, F. (2009). Insurgent planning: situating radical planning in the global south. Planning Theory, 8(1), 32-50.
- Nova Cartografia Social da Amazônia. (2009). Ilê Axé Alagbede Olodumare (Terreiro de Axé Ferreiro de Deus). São Luis, Maranhão, Brasil. Retrieved from http://novacartografiasocial.com/?wpdmact=process&did=ODYuaG90bGluaw==
- Paling, W. (2012). Planning a Future for Phnom Penh: Mega Projects, Aid Dependence and Disjointed Governance. Urban Studies, 49(13), 2889–2912.
- Parreñas, R. S. (2000). Migrant Filipina Domestic Workers and the International Division of Reproductive Labor. Gender and Society, 14(4), 560–580.
- Perry, Keisha-Khan. 2004. The roots of black resistance: race, gender and the struggle for
- urban land rights in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Social Identities 10 (6): 811-831.
- Perry, K.-K. Y., & Rappaport, J. (2013). Making a Case for Collaborative Research with Black and Indigenous Social Movements in Latin America. Otros Saberes: Collaborative Research on Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Cultural Politics. Charles R. Hale and Lynn Stephen, Eds, 30–48.
- Richter-Devroe, S. (2011). Palestinian women’s everyday resistance: Between normality and normalisation. Journal of International Women’s Studies 12(2), 32.
- Rojas Muñoz, A. (2013). Ciudadanos por Valparaíso: “trabajando por la potenciación de los recursos culturales auténticos”. Revista Planeo, (9). Retrieved from http://revistaplaneo.uc.cl/2013/01/15/ciudadanos-por-valparaiso-trabajando-por-la-potenciacion-de-los-recursos-culturales-autenticos/
- Roy, A. (2005). Urban Informality. Journal of the American Planning Association, 71(2), 147–158.
- Ryan, C. (2015). Everyday resilience as resistance: Palestinian women practicing sumud. International Political Sociology 9(4), 299-315.
- Scott, J. C. (1985). Weapons of the weak: Everyday forms of peasant resistance. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- Sendra, P. (2015). Rethinking urban public space. City, 19(6), 820–836.
- Shahin, E. E. D. (2012). The Egyptian revolution: The power of mass mobilization and the spirit of Tahrir Square. The Journal of the Middle East and Africa, 3(1), 46-69.
- Sheller, M., & Urry, J. (2006). The New Mobilities Paradigm. Environment and Planning A, 38(2), 207–226.
- Shokr, A. (2011). The 18 days of Tahrir. Middle East Report, 258, 14-19.
- Simone, A. M. (2004). People as Infrastructure: Intersecting Fragments in Johannesburg. Public Culture, 16(3), 407–429.
- Sletto, B., Torres, J., Mendoza, N., Lara, R. R., Brigmon, N., Davila, T., … Chantada, A. (2014). Protests with proposals: Teaching and learning activist planning in the Dominican Republic/Planning, activism and critical pedagogy through the interstices of horizontal governance/National political struggles, neoliberalism, and the evolution of urban planning in the Dominican Republic/Decentralization of planning in the Dominican Republic under neoliberalism and the role of civil society/Learning and working in Los Platanitos, Santo Domingo Norte: Mujeres Unidas and the vermiculture pilot project/Teaching reflexivity: An e-dialogue on critical service learning under neoliberal governance/The state, the city, and participation in civil society in the Dominican Republic. Planning Theory & Practice, 15(4), 565–588.
- Smith, Christen. 2016. Afro-Paradise: Blackness, Violence and Performance in Brazil. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.
- Sousa, C. A., Kemp, S., & El-Zuhairi, M. (2014). Dwelling within political violence: Palestinian women’s narratives of home, mental health, and resilience. Health & Place 30, 205-214.
- Sotomayor, Luisa. 2015. Equitable planning through territories of exception: the contours of Medellin’s urban development projects. International Development Planning Review 37 (4): 373-397
- Sweet, E. L., & Escalante, S. O. (2014). Bringing bodies into planning: Visceral methods, fear and gender violence. Urban Studies, 52(10), 1826-1845.
- Vernengo, M. (2006). Technology, Finance, and Dependency: Latin American Radical Political Economy in Retrospect. Review of Radical Political Economics, 38(4), 551–568. http://doi.org/10.1177/0486613406293220
- Wee, V., & Sim, A. (2003). Transnational labour networks in female labour migration: mediating between Southeast Asian women workers and international labour markets (Working Paper Series No. 49). Hong Kong: Southeast Asia Research Centre of the City University of Hong Kong. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20070221125433/http://www.cityu.edu.hk/searc/WP49_03_Wee_Sim.pdf