This paper argues that diaries are in themselves a kind of history—individual in scale and scope, but wide-ranging in content and style. Reading diaries as histories rather than as historical documents, offers new perspectives from which to understand Palestinians’ experiences of the Nakba. In particular, this paper draws on the Nakba-era diaries of Khalil al-Sakakini and Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shrouf, to suggest potential contributions of reading diaries as history rather than texts from which fragments can be mobilized to augment, confirm, or illuminate narrative histories. Khalil al-Sakakini was one of the giants of Palestinian intellectual and political life in the twentieth century, and his diaries encompass nearly half a century, extending from 1907 to 1953. Meanwhile, Muhammad ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Shrouf (1913–1994) was of a different generation and a different milieu than Sakakini. Though far less prominent, and less prolific, than Sakakini, Shrouf’s diaries nevertheless provide an extensive record of the life of a Palestinian villager and subaltern during a crucial period of social, political, and economic transformation. Overall, the assessment of these two works will place Sakakini’s and Shrouf’s diaries within the context of Palestinian and Arab diaries, discussing their generic distinction from other kinds of personal accounts and even other published diaries, before discussing what in particular may be gained by reading these diaries as Nakba histories.
This paper was published in Almuntaqa, the peer-reviewed English-language journal dedicated to the social sciences and humanities and the full article is available for free to read or download on Jstor.