The phrase “Open Gaza” conjures multiple meanings. As the title of a book newly published by Terreform and AUC Press, it suggests accessibility, receptivity, and a future Gaza without blockades. But it’s also a call to action. The final sentence of the book’s introduction, written by co-editors Deen Sharp and the late Michael Sorkin, is the exclamatory, “Open Gaza!”
The Open Gaza project, which stretches beyond the book, was launched by the nonprofit Terreform six and a half years ago, intended as a departure from most academic and policy projects around Gaza.
As Tareq Baconi said during a February 22 webinar that marked the book’s launch, work on Gaza is often “hemmed in by the despair.” This book recognizes and acknowledges Gaza’s cruel isolation, but also interweaves the beautiful, the aspirational, and the fantastic.
The book brings together twenty-one essays by scholars and practitioners around the world, as well as blueprints, lists, and speculative art. The authors come from a variety of disciplines: architecture and planning, the social sciences, environmentalism, and critical theory.
The book launch, hosted by co-editor Deen Sharp, was the start of a series of Open Gaza events taking place online. It featured three of the book’s contributors: Baconi, an author and analyst with the International Crisis Group; Fadi Shayya, an architect and scholar at the University of Manchester; and Helga Tawil-Souri, a filmmaker and scholar at New York University.
All three contributors emphasized that, while the book’s focus is Gaza, it does not look at Gaza in isolation. The collection, they said, also walks a line between recognizing Gaza’s grim realities while not taking them as immutable.
A Specific Kind of Hope
The idea for the Open Gaza project came amidst the 2014 Gaza War, during which hundreds of thousands of Gazans were internally displaced, tens of thousands of homes were damaged, and more than 2,000 Gazans were killed, including 551 children. (See a related article, “For Gaza’s Besieged Universities, Reform Is Low on the Agenda.”)
Yet Sorkin and Sharp did not want the project to be “a compendium of disaster and despair,” as Sharp said during the book’s launch.
To that end, Open Gaza’s subtitle is “Architectures of Hope.” This suggests not a fuzzy optimism about the future, but rather an attempt to thoughtfully design new hope.