GrayLit, May 2019.
GrayLit is a digital culture hub and print periodical presenting art and thought at the intersection of Palestinian and Jewish histories and movements for justice. It takes its name from a term (“gray literature”) that refers to information produced and circulated outside of commercial publishing. As an evolving editorial collective, we present creative work in a variety of media—from paintings to protests—that challenges political, social, and cultural hierarchies. GrayLit strives to contribute to an emergent culture shift motivated by opposition to the violences of white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy by presenting voices that help us critically explore our histories, locate ourselves in the present, and imagine possibilities for the future.
GrayLit celebrates the power of cultural work to destabilize and uproot systems of domination. We respond to settler colonialism and oppressive nationalisms by asking questions about access, representation, and resources. Through our curation, we hope to address a glaring gap between the richness and complexity of Jewish culture and the limited scope of mainstream definitions of Jewishness. For many, white Ashkenazi history and culture serve as predominant reference points, and the history and culture of Jews of Color, Sephardim, and Mizrahim too often serve as footnotes to institutional Jewish life or are not acknowledged at all.
Incubated in a context of Jewish solidarity organizing for Palestinian liberation, GrayLit positions itself in cooperation with other platforms critically engaging with Jewishness and connections between art, politics, and transnational solidarity. We ask what kinds of connections can be forged if we actively seek out work that is suppressed by the material conditions of occupation and by constraints on what counts as valid art. We hope to build a vibrant space where complex critical and artistic expression can help us envision a future in which we all—between the river and the sea (and beyond!)—live in freedom.
Rather than merely including voices in the oversaturated sphere of media culture, GrayLit is more interested in reshaping our collective understandings of culture and politics. Nor is this a merely rhetorical exercise: we cannot wrest ourselves from oppressive paradigms like Israeli apartheid without thinking more creatively—and hopefully—about what could be!
This inaugural print edition offers examples of the kinds of art and thought we are excited to feature. NYC based Pilipinx-Jewish-American artist Camille Hoffman uses mixed media paintings to investigate meanings of home and land, constructing imaginary landscapes where disposable bodies, histories, and materials might be valued. Lebanese-American poet Zein El-Amine offers a translation of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour’s writings from Israeli prison and his own in tribute to Lebanese freedom fighter Souha Bechara. Algerian Israeli author and theorist Ariella Azoulay shows how the power relations of photography and archives erase Palestinian history. We hope these and other contributions will help us learn, imagine, and build together.
Some of our initial questions are:
How, through a multiplicity of mediums and collaborations, can GrayLit facilitate access to creative work—especially by Palestinians, Jews of Color, Sephardim, and Mizrahim—that challenges settler colonialism and white supremacy?
How can we de-link Jewishness and Zionism, and instead nurture political and cultural practices rooted in empathy, dignity, and a commitment to collective liberation?
In the spirit of accountability and collaboration, we are excited to ask these and other questions of ourselves, our contributors, and our readers—and to let the answers shape what GrayLit becomes.