Rashid Khalidi sets out to study the emergence of Palestinian nationalism at the dawn of the 20th century. He explores the early cultural beginnings of Palestinian identity, which precede the encounter with Zionism, and studies the different developments of Palestinian identity in light of that encounter. Whereas a large number of accounts stress that Palestinian identity developed exclusively as a result of the encounter with colonial Zionism, Khalidi sets the record straight. In line with predominant theories of nationalism, Khalidi demonstrates that national identities are defined in relation to an other. Palestine identity, which as early as 1701 manifested itself against a hostile European Christianity, remained Jerusalem-centered until the beginning of the 20th century. That is when a modern Palestinian nationalism was emerging, before the encounter with British colonialism and Zionist settler colonialism changed the configuration of both the Palestinian self and its other. Khalidi charts the changes in the forms of knowledge that the Palestinian intelligentsia was acquiring in the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries, noting the shift from Islamic studies to modern social science and the humanities. Through an inventory of Palestinian libraries, Khalidi carefully chronicles these changes in forms of knowledge, correlating them with the new and emerging political ideas in the country.
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