SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Ms Taroob Boulos

BA (University of Haifa), MA (University of Haifa, Israel), Teaching Training Certificate (University of Haifa, Israel)
  • Research


Taroob Boulos
Ms Taroob Boulos
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Thesis title:
Breaking the Silence: Pain, Torture, Resistance and Bearing Witness in the Narratives of Palestinian War Prisoners and Detainees (1967 to 2015)
Year of Study:
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PhD Research

This dissertation explores theoretical approaches underpinning prison writing with a focus on Palestinian war prisoner writers. Many Arab and foreign literary critics find prison writings similar in terms of form and content, and they even find similarities in formal defects (e.g., Abu Nidal, 1981; al-Faysal, 1983; Roberts, 1985). Clearly, there are certain thematic and formal similarities among war prisoner writings such as the absence of expressed pain, the concealment of vulnerabilities and weaknesses, and repetitions of certain novelistic features, such as: flashback, monologue and fragmentation and repetitions. At the same time, the differences among prison experiences across the globe are vast. First, all prisons are different and they change constantly. Each prison has its own disciplinary rules and physical layout even within national, state, county and provincial systems. Second, prisoners in general have very subjective experiences influenced by many factors including why they are imprisoned, for how long, their political affiliations, gender, class, ethnicity and other differences. Third, there are disparities in stages of incarceration (beginning, middle and end of sentence) and in the prisoners' psychological state at the time they are writing. This dissertation explores how these differences affect the form and subject of the writings produced, with a focus on Palestinian war prisoner’s writings. Although a large percentage of Palestinians have been incarcerated, Palestinian prison/trauma literature, in particular, has not received much attention. This dissertation addresses this neglected area of Palestinian war prisoner narratives and helps bring public attention to writings that rarely receive notice or that appear in venues with limited circulation. This study highlights the prison narratives of Palestinian war prisoners in the prisons of the Israeli occupation, writings by war prisoners with little education who began writing in the wake of their imprisonment. All war prisoner writers in this study belonged to the Palestinian working-class at the time of their arrest. They were arrested as freedom fighters and/or political activists. Almost all of them had been tortured, interrogated, charged and spent five to twenty-two years in prison. This dissertation examines three prison narrative categories: 1) nonliterary documentation of the prison experience and of the Palestinian prisoners’ struggle against the prison administration; 2) personal testimonies and literary narratives (e.g., novels and short stories) that bear witness to the prison experience from the viewpoint of fictional characters; and 3) narratives that deal with other non-prisoner themes such as interpersonal relationships outside of prison, political resistance, political theory and critiques, and revolutionary political visions. The aim of this dissertation is to demonstrate that Palestinian war prisoners (like other political/war prison writers) write for many reasons. First, Palestinian prisoner writing is a form of political resistance and a means to gain agency. That is, it is an act aimed at breaking the silence of prison life and prisoner isolation and at reconnecting with the Palestinian cause inside and outside the prison walls. Second, prisoner writing is therapeutic, a means of relieving trauma for war prisoners. It enables the writers to communicate their thoughts, express the effects of their trauma and preserve their inner selves, their psyches. Likewise, it vicariously helps the writers’ inmate cohorts to understand and relate to the writers’ experiences, thereby serving as a catharsis for this group as well. Third, writing is a means of education. Palestinian war prisoners (viewed by Palestinian society as revolutionary men and women and national heroes) feel responsible for educating the masses outside the prisons and preparing them for prison life through their narratives, as every Palestinian is a potential revolutionary and thus, a potential prisoner. Also, war prisoner writers realize that sharing their prison experiences will help current and future prisoners endure the difficult prison experience. This dissertation examines these themes of Palestinian war prisoners’ writings via the Palestinian context and experience, as well as the larger theories of trauma, pain, torture along with resistance literature.


Centre for Palestine Studies (CPS)

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

London Middle East Institute (LMEI)

Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies (CMDS)


  • Pain, torture and Trauma Theories
  • Post Colonial studies and Theories
  • Semitic Languages and Comparative Linguistics
  • Classical and Modern Arabic Literature
  • Palestinian Studies
  • Teaching Modern Standard Arabic to English and Arabic Native Speakers