Accepted Paper:

Localising collective belongings: Palestinians in the Old City of Jerusalem  


Johannes Becker (Goettingen University)

Paper short abstract:

Old City Palestinians have to negotiate politics as well as religious, social and familial affiliations. This creates fears of not meeting all these demands and raises questions if to remain in or leave symbolically loaded "communities". Those who stay have to discuss their relations to city space.

Paper long abstract:

Members of Palestinian groupings in the ideologically and geographically dense space of the Old City of Jerusalem are exposed to and have to engage with unpredictable politics and oppression. But only taken together with changing and insecure familial figurations as well as the requested commitment to religious and social principles, it creates a fear of not suitably fulfilling all demands connected with it.

Firstly, this brings up the biographically relevant question of remaining in or leaving the Old City - implicitly, it imposes on dwellers to decide if they are willing to carry the burden of belonging to symbolically loaded "communities" and to help stabilizing them in familial, religious and national regards. I will discuss why remaining or leaving is often discussed as a dichotomy of "modern"/"traditional" as well.

Secondly, based on a contrastive comparison of cases of dwellers and a thorough reconstruction of their "small life-worlds" I will show that remaining in the Old City may be interpreted as defeat or as chance in their perceived subjective engagement with the city. Spatial surroundings and material "truths" as they present themselves to the dwellers become essential metaphors to talk about life in Jerusalem.

My paper is based on fieldwork which is part of my PhD-project and embedded in a larger research on established/outsider relations, funded by the German Research Foundation. Thus, although or because Jerusalem is often presented as a "special case", these questions serve to illustrate relevant issues of people's everyday life in a larger context: Palestine/Israel and the Middle East.

Panel W015
Living uncertainty: navigating gray-zones of unreliable realities in the Middle East (EN)