Link It to Life!
“Studying literature is a kind of reflection and self-reflection, opening up a space for nuanced understanding of the social, political and spiritual foundations of one’s culture.... Any interpretation of literature that is nor relevant to these contexts in which one is embedded is a distortion of interpretation and reality”.
-Dr. Bilal Hamamra
Hamamra has a PhD in Early Modern Drama from the University of Lancaster, UK and works currently as an assistant professor of English Literature at the Department of English Language and Literature, An-Najah National University, Nablus, Palestine. His research interests are in Early Modern Drama, Shakespeare, Women’s Writings and Gender Studies. His articles on language, gender and sexual politics, death, martyrdom and diaspora have appeared in Early Modern Literary Studies, Critical Survey, Interventions, ANQ, The Explicator, Journal for Cultural Research, Psychodynamic Practice, Journal of Gender Studies, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Anglia, Middle East Critique, Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, Arab Studies Quarterly, Educational Philosophy and Theory and Changing English, among others.
The Department of English is a host of a group of professors who have shown a remarkable interest in academic research which is of paramount importance to the University and students. Hamamra said that “I am working on a variety of research papers with Dr. Ahmad Qabaha and Inst. Sanaa Abusamra from the English Department. I am also involved in research with Dr. Michael Uebel, a psychotherapist and researcher in Austin, Texas and, I am co-authoring some book chapters as contributions to valuable volumes. I also work as an editor and a reviewer to some journals”.
Literature and COVID-19
Hamamra said that “despite the severe social, health, political and economic impacts of the outbreak of COVID-19 on Palestinians, one positive aspect of this pandemic is that it has revealed the perils and shortcomings of the teacher-cantered, traditional education which colonizes students’ minds, compromises their analytical abilities and, paradoxically, places them in a system of oppression which audits their ideas, limits their freedoms, and curtails their creativity”. Hamamra added that “The dialogical pedagogy that emerged in the digital mode of education is a promising alternative paradigm to the in-class, teacher-centered approach which has fallen short from fulfilling the emancipatory purpose of education”.
Instead of the verbal alienation that characterizes the banking system of education, Hamamra has encouraged students to deliver presentations and write research papers linking fiction and reality. For example, in the Shakespeare Course, some students submitted and presented papers exploring connections between rumor in Shakespeare and during COVID-19; Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and Othello and Black Lives Matter; handshaking, breath and contagious diseases in Shakespeare and COVID-19; and Hamlet’s inactivity and the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations and the Israeli plan of annexation. In the Drama Class, some students investigated the uncertainty and the endless task of waiting enacted in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in connection to the uncertainty and the futility of finding effective drugs to combat COVID-19.
Advice for Students
Dr. Hamamra emphasizes that students should hone their critical and creative skills rather than strive to score high marks in courses that follow the cram-and-vomit ethos. He added that “Instead of preparing students to pass their exams, instructors should teach students in ways that promote their fight against social and political injustice”. Hamamra ended his remarks saying “I have faith in my students and some, if not many, are imaginative, thoughtful and creative. I am working with some of them on research papers and they are writing something remarkable”.
Links to the latest papers:
- Bilal Hamamra & Ahmad Qabaha (2021) ‘Can the subaltern speak?’: COVID-19 and decolonial pedagogy in Palestinian universities, Journal for Cultural Research, DOI: 10.1080/14797585.2021.1936106
- Bilal Hamamra (2021) Palestinian Bereaved Mothers of Martyrs: Religious and National Discourses of Sacrifice and Bereavement, Women & Criminal Justice, DOI: 10.1080/08974454.2021.1902458
- Bilal Hamamra & Michael Uebel (2021) Queering sexuality in Sarah Kane’s Phaedra’s love, Psychodynamic Practice, DOI: 10.1080/14753634.2021.1874636
- Bilal Hamamra, Nabil Alawi & Abdel Karim Daragmeh (2021) Covid-19 and the decolonisation of education in Palestinian universities, Educational Philosophy and Theory, DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2020.1865921
- Bilal Tawfiq Hamamra & Sanaa Abusamra (2020) “What’s in a Name?”, Interventions, 22:8, 1065-1078, DOI: 10.1080/1369801X.2020.1753557
- Bilal Hamamra, Michael Uebel & Sanaa Abu Samra (2021) “You are only as healthy as your neighbour”: collective vulnerability and (un)ethical responsiveness to the early phases of the pandemic in Palestine, Global Affairs, DOI: 10.1080/23340460.2021.1936589