Washing words: The politics of water in Mourid Barghouti’s 'I Saw Ramallah'

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Water has been acknowledged as a key area of dispute in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In particular, water stress in the occupied territories of the West Bank has been exacerbated by Israel’s colonisation of water resources via the Oslo II agreements and, latterly, the erection of a separation wall that articulates a hydropolitical as much as a geopolitical reality. This article argues that Mourid Barghouti’s I Saw Ramallah, a memoir of Barghouti’s return to the West Bank after thirty years in exile, offers a sustained engagement with the environmental politics of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, most particular the politics of water. Via his reflections on metaphor and metonymy in particular, Barghouti responds to the central question posed in the memoir – ‘Does a poet live in space or time?’ – with the presentation of a distinctively liquid vision of life in exile and in the occupied territories. As such, I Saw Ramallah presents an instance of what Rob Nixon calls the ‘decentring of environmentalism’ in which postcolonial insights offer a corrective to bioregional approaches which neglect politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-199
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Commonwealth Literature
Issue number2
Early online date8 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • Barghouti
  • eco-criticism
  • Israel/Palestine
  • poetry
  • postcolonial
  • water


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