2022 Honorable Mention

A History of False Hope: Investigative Commissions in Palestine

by Lori Allen

Prize Committee: Mythri Jegathesan (Santa Clara University), Tomas Matza (University of Pittsburgh), Ramah McKay (University of Pennsylvania), Jemima Pierre (UCLA) wrote the following:

This remarkable work is about how the enduring hope placed in liberal international law has shaped Palestinian politics even as it continues to fail to achieve Palestinian liberation, or even rights protections, while reinforcing the oppressive status quo in the region. Allen shows how investigative commissions, presumed to produce policy from facts, have instead served to delimit debate in international law, kicking difficult political issues down the road and staging “affective performances” in which Palestinian worthiness is continually judged. To make this argument, Allen focuses on a century of international investigative commissions convened to document political violence and rights violations in Palestine. With an attention to the circulation of affect in letters, newspaper articles, and, later, conversations with Palestinians and participating individuals about the commissions, Allen tracks the way that an ultimately false hope placed in a better outcome continues to animate both how history is documented and a desire for the future liberation of Palestine. The analysis also provides insight into the operations of international human rights law and the contradictions of liberalism regarding “the problem of Palestine.” The work makes an outstanding contribution to legal anthropology with its ethnographically organized attention to the ways in which political inaction takes shape through international law’s hierarchies, proceduralism, structures, and affective economies.