Humus as the New Site of Resistance in the Second Intifādah

Posted: March 18, 2012 by sanahashmidts403 in Uncategorized

Dear class,

I was very interested in this past week’s (March 14 class) reading by Dafna Hirsch titled “Humus is best when it is fresh and made by Arabs”.  I think all of the readings did a great job in illustrating the complicated relationship between food, identity and politics– and none of the readings did a greater job of highlighting these tensions than Hirsch’s article on humus in the Palestine/Israeli context.

In this reading response I put forth the argument that humus as a food-object, can play a transformative role as the new site of resistance in the second intifidah.  This can play out in several ways. Firstly, I really like the part in Hirsch’s article where she highlights the relationship between the self and food, and how food literally enters the body and in many ways can become a part of you. For many decades, Palestinian resistance has been centered around countering arguments of Palestinian non-existence (Golda Mier, Lord Balfour, etc.).  If humus is recognized in Israel as an object that has significant connection to Palestinian land (where ingredients of humus are usually grown), then humus can play a significant role in the acknowledgement of a Palestinian presence. Obviously, this will have to happen in a way that does not exoticize humus, as is the case of what Hirsch points out as some left-wing Israeli cultural commentators who place a value of authenticity on ‘Arab-made’ humus, and in doing so, speak in increasingly depoliticized terms.  This also must happen in a way that does not ‘eat the other’, as has been the case in numerous other colonial contexts that Hirsch describes earlier on in her article. A more complex approach to humus, then, would entail a focus on its movement through different eras of Palestinian/ Israeli history such as the three that Hirsch elaborates on in her article (mandate period, period of Israeli nationalization, current period).

Obviously, the contexts and meaning that people worldwide, especially within Israel/Palestine attribute to humus can arguably play a more active part than the object itself. However, humus, as a unique object within the formation of Israeli and Palestinian identity can autonomously propel an important political task, in doing so, speak to a form of object agency of its own.

More than just the ways that food can play an important role in the formation and acknowledgement of identity, food also helps cross the boundaries between geographical and regional identities. This too, can play a significant role in an analysis of humus as a transformative force.  The second reading which I found interesting was Anita Mannur’s article on “Culinary Nostalgia”. Mannur comments on how experiences of cooking and ingredient scavenging in the diaspora have the ability to connect South Asians to regional identities within their own country (India) that they would not have been able to access at home. The author narrates an experience of her own where through a movement across numerous diasporic experiences in different countries and socio-economic circumstances, she was able to connect with South Indian and Bengali dishes that were unknown to her when she was back home at India. I think this does more than just evoke a type of ‘apolitical nostalgia’ for home–but that this actually expands the conception of what home was by including the tastes of various regional identities in her diet. This is particularly interesting in the context of South Asia (India), where political claims and varying notions of subnationalisms offered by regional identities have resulted in significant moments of political unrest. Thus, the consumption of humus, amongst those in Arab and Jewish diasporas (abroad and WITHIN) can expand the notion of what constitutes home for both groups of people.


1) Do you agree or disagree with the argument proposed here about humus playing a transformative role in Israel/Palestine

2) Are there instances when we should not OR cannot read politics into food.

  1. jnnice says:

    I was also thinking of the same argument that humus playing a role as an object that is attached to one’s identity in political context. The food as a thing, has its label that indicates the ownership by the language that is called, and the origination. It seems very similar in a way a land gains its ‘sovereignty’. A particular population comes and occupies the land, speak their common language, and makes the history of the land, by living in there. Thus, land is claimed by the people who label it, who uses it as a territory. Same thing happens to the food: it is claimed by the people who label it, and makes the history of the food, by eating and producing it. The functionary part is different but the concept of ownership is the same, in my opinion.

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