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We’ve all heard stories about the time before visa denials, where merchants traveled through borderless Asia. But today you can’t work abroad without a visa. Institutions have made space more restrictive, and impediments to freedom of movement are deeply felt by Bedouin Palestinians.
In “Voices: Palestinian Women Narrate Displacement,” anthropologist and oral historian Rosemary has compiled an incredibly descriptive oral history of 70 diverse Palestinian women. Umm Muhammad is an allegedly Bedouin interviewee of Sayigh’s from a Palestinian valley punctuated with Israeli settlements. Umm Muhammad doesn’t lament the geopolitical nuances of her life, but viscerally describes the restrictions on her movement. “We are refugees…The hardships we’ve seen no one else has seen…They put us all together with our herds and flocks… some lived a life of poverty and humiliation…In the past we lived in moveable homes (beit rahal), but those houses were better than what we have now. In the past we used to move every fifteen days. We had sheep, we had flocks, and we had our freedom. Now we are squeezed into a small space…” Umm Muhammad’s culture is founded on migration and movement, and in this oral recounting of her personal history she is suffocatingly limited to small spaces.