top of page

Diana Allan

Critical Media Lab Co-lead – McGill University


Associate Professor, Anthropology & Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID)

Canada Research Chair in the Anthropology of Living Archives

Ph.D. Harvard University (2008)

Diana Allan is a scholar, archivist, and documentary filmmaker whose research explores the history and lived experience of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. She is the co-founder of the Nakba Archive, a grassroots testimonial initiative that has filmed refugee accounts of the 1948 destruction and displacement. Her 2014 ethnography Refugees of the Revolution: Experiences of Palestinian Exile examined local material realities animating social and political life in Shatila camp. Her recent edited volume Voices of the Nakba: A Living History of Palestine presents the significance of refugee narratives for understanding the Nakba, its aftermath, and the history of colonialism and imperial state formation in the Middle East.

Allan’s ethnographic films Shatila, Beirut (2001), Still Life (2007), Terrace of the Sea (2009), and So Dear, So Lovely (2018) build on these thematic concerns in their attention to camp ecologies, the mnemonic processes and material environments of exile, and the aesthetic and non-discursive registers of refugee experience. Her current film project, Partition, deconstructs cultural memory, archival authority and colonial history, bringing together interwar footage from British and Israeli colonial archives with contemporary audio recorded in Palestinian camps in Lebanon.

Allan is co-lead of the Department of Anthropology’s Critical Media Lab, which plays a key role in L4E’s Ecozoic storytelling and is situated within the Anthropology for the Ecozoic hub of L4E. Her current multimodal project, Past Continuous, explores the ontology of camps as living archives. Other present research touches on Palestinian coastal life then and now, labor at sea, community-based food production and urban food gardens in Lebanon, and ongoing collaborations with activists, scholars, artists and community members to develop digital pedagogical platforms that engage the history and concerns of refugee communities today.


Edited volume

2021    Voices of the Nakba: A Living History of Palestine.  Pluto Press, London. (Winner of a 2021 English        PEN Award).          


2014    Refugees of the Revolution: Experiences of Palestinian Exile. Stanford University Press. (Winner of the          2014 Palestine Book Award and the 2015 American Anthropological Association, Middle East      Section Prize).

Special Journal Issue

2016    Special Issue, “Visual Revolutions in the Middle East,” Visual Anthropology 29, no. 3 (co-edited with Mark Westmoreland)

Journal Articles

2021    “Mothers Gather: The fractured temporalities of Palestinian Motherhood.” Special Issue:      Palestinian Futures: anticipation, imagination, embodiments. Geografiska Annaler Vol. 103, No. 1:367-379.

2020    “The Long Turning: A Palestinian Refugee in Belgium,” Cultural Anthropology 35, No. 2: 225–230             (colloquy series on “Theorizing (In)security in the Middle East”).

2018    “This is Not a Politics: Solidarity and Subterfuge in Palestinian Refugee Communities in Lebanon,” South Atlantic Quarterly 116, no. 1: 91–110.

2016    “Visual Revolutions in the Middle East” (editorial introduction, co-authored with Mark Westmoreland), Visual Anthropology 29, no. 3: 205–210.

2016    “Watching Photos in Shatila: Visualizing Politics in the 2011 March of Return,” Visual Anthropology 29, no. 3: 296–214.

2013    “Commemorative Economies and the Politics of Solidarity in Shatila Camp,” Humanity 4, no. 1:133–147.

2012    “From Archive to Art Film: A Palestinian Aesthetics of Memory Reviewed,” Cairo Papers in Social Science 31, no. 3/4: 149–166.

2010    “The Mavi Marmara at the Frontlines of Web 2.0,” Journal of Palestine Studies, 40, no. 1: 1–15 (co-authored with Curtis Brown).

Book Chapters

2020    “At Sea: Maritime Palestine Displaced,” in Displacement: Global Conversations on Refuge, eds.   Sylvia Pasquetti and Romola Sanyal (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press), 99–116.

2018    “What Bodies Remember: Sensory Experience as Historical Counterpoint in the Nakba Archive,” in An Oral History of the Palestinian Nakba, eds. Nahla Abdo and Nur Masalha (London, UK: Zed Books), 66–86.

2016    “‘See and Remember’: The Golden Days of Said Otruk,” in The Philosophy of Documentary, ed. David LaRocca (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books-Rowman and Littlefield), 251–260.


Partition (in production), 16mm and video, black & white/colour.

So Dear, So Lovely (2018) 16 mm, black & white/colour, 24 minutes. Distributed by the Cinema Guild             Brooklyn, NY.

Terrace of the Sea (2009), digital video, colour, 52 minutes. Distributed by the Cinema GuildBrooklyn, NY.

Fire Under Ash (2009), digital video, colour, 27 mins. Produced at Film Studies Center, Harvard.

Still Life (2007) digital video, colour, 25minutes. Distributed by the Cinema Guild, Brooklyn, NY.

bottom of page