Documenting the unarchivable: Minor Detail and the archive of senses

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article is a close reading of Adania Shibli’s Tafṣīl thānawī (Minor Detail), focusing on the novel’s poetic techniques of narrating Palestinian history. This article shows how, in order to break away from the reliance on perpetrators’ testimonies, Shibli creates a repository of unverifiable, seemingly negligible details that ultimately construct the historical event as a continuous phenomenon that lasts until today. Once accessible via present realities, the authoritative archive is rendered unnecessary. Privileging description over action, Tafṣīl thānawī turns minor, tangible details into indispensable pieces of the historical puzzle. This article illuminates why Tafṣīl thānawī does not simply embody the voice of the colonized, but challenges what we deem worth documenting and inserts into the historical discourse the sights, smells, and sounds of undocumented experiences. As such, Shibli provides an alternative method of documenting the past, one that classifies the unarchivable: sensory experiences and a vanishing landscape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-619
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Postcolonial Writing
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Adania Shibli
  • Palestinian history
  • Palestinian literature
  • Tafṣīl thānawī (Minor Detail)
  • colonial archives
  • sexual violence in Israel/Palestine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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