Based on an extensive photo archive of road signs, Abdul Rahim al-Shaikh, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Cultural Studies at Birzeit University, Fulbright Visiting Senior Scholar at the Center for Palestine Studies, interrogates the colonial politics of toponymy within historic Palestine from as early as 1856. It shows how eurocentric, colonizing politics of toponymy were deployed by the Zionists, the Zionist movement, and the settler colonial state of Israel to rename the Palestinian landscape. Declaring Palestine a terra nullius brought the Columbus namemania into play, necessitating theorizing the collapse of two events, Euro-American colonialism and Zionism, in one, albeit ongoing, structure. The talk constructs a genealogy of the Zionist names commissions and its inherent politics; elaborates on the modes of resistance against these colonial politics; examines the map transformations on the political, cultural and artistic levels of the Palestinian imaginations; and traces the counter-cultural engineering deployed to combat a century-long project directed towards synthesizing a geographic amnesia.
Abdul-Rahim Al-Shaikh is a poet and academic born in Jerusalem to a Palestinian refugee family from Ramlah. He is an associate professor of philosophy and cultural studies at Birzeit University. Al-Shaikh's work is focused on cultural representations and the politics of Palestinian identity, in addition to his works on Arab poetry, art criticism, and translation. He earned his Ph.D. in Middle East and Arab Studies at the University of Utah, after which he conducted his postdoctoral research in cultural mobility in near-eastern cultures at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Since 2004, he has been a fellow at both Muwatin-The Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy and the Institute of Palestine Studies. Al-Shaikh is currently a Fulbright Visiting Senior Scholar at the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University researching "The Palestinian Living Cemetery." His last book is: The Biography of Gabi Baramki and His Odyssey at Birzeit University 1929-2012 (2015/Arabic).