Hanan Ashrawi on “Palestine in Context: The Prospects of Peace”

December 8, 2016

Amherst welcomed legislator, activist and scholar Hanan Ashrawi to campus for a talk and Q&A. An influential Palestinian leader, Ashrawi is a former professor of English literature known for her advocacy of Palestinian self-determination and peace in the Middle East.

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Hanan Ashrawi

Amherst College will welcome legislator, activist and scholar Hanan Ashrawi for a talk titled “Palestine in Context: The Prospects of Peace” on Thursday, Dec. 8, at 4:30 p.m. in Cole Assembly Room in Converse Hall. The talk is free and open to the public, and followed by a Q&A session with Ashrawi.

Hailed as one of the most influential Palestinian leaders of her time, Ashrawi is a former professor of English literature best known for her advocacy of Palestinian self-determination and peace in the Middle East. Born in 1946 in Nablus, which is now part of the occupied West Bank, Ashrawi has dedicated her life to working to end Israeli occupation, and to democracy and gender equality.

Ashrawi served as a member of the leadership committee and as an official spokesperson of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace process, beginning with the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991. Making history as the first woman to hold a seat in the Palestine Liberation Organization, she was elected as a member of its executive committee in 2009.

As a civil society activist, she founded the Independent Commission for Human Rights (1994); MIFTAH, the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (1998); and AMAN, the National Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (1999). She serves on the advisory and international boards of several global, regional and local organizations and is the recipient of numerous awards and several academic accolades, including 11 honorary doctorates from universities in the United States, Canada, Europe and the Arab world. She received the Swedish Olof Palme Prize (2002) and the Sydney Peace Foundation Prize (2003) in recognition of her efforts for peace and human rights.

Ashrawi is author of numerous books, including The Modern Palestinian Short Story: An Introduction to Practical Criticism; Contemporary Palestinian Literature under Occupation; Contemporary Palestinian Poetry and Fiction; and Literary Translation: Theory and Practice. She received her bachelor’s and master's degrees in literature from the American University of Beirut. 

After earning a Ph.D. in medieval and comparative literature from the University of Virginia, she returned to the West Bank in 1973 to establish the Department of English at Birzeit University. She remained a faculty member there until 1995, publishing numerous poems, short stories, papers and articles on Palestinian culture, literature and politics, and editing the Anthology of Palestinian Literature. Her most recent writings include From Intifada to Independence and her autobiography, This Side of Peace: A Personal Account