Author:Dorota Woroniecka-Krzyzanowska (German Historical Institute - Warsaw)
Paper short abstract:
Based on eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in a West Bank refugee camp, the paper analyzes urban practices through which camp residents struggled to resist dispossession, inferiority and uncertainty of their protracted exile.
Paper long abstract:
Designed to provide temporary shelter to the displaced, in protracted refugee situations the camps become places of long-term residency and undergo processes of urban change. To understand the socio-spatial complexities of a protracted camp, it is necessary to escape the dichotomy between the city as a norm vs. the camp as an exception that underpins dominant theoretical models derived from the works of Giorgio Agamben. Instead of approaching the camp as a doomed to fail urbanization project, we should look at it as a space of potentiality where new forms of political engagement and spatial politics may develop. Contrary to popular imagination and much of the existing literature that tend to portray refugees as disempowered victims, the protracted camps have often become sites of symbolic and political struggles against marginalization and injustice. Such has been the case of Al-Am'ari, a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank. Based on eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork, the paper analyzes urban practices through which the residents have resisted the dispossession, inferiority and uncertainty of their protracted exile. Located on the margins of Ramallah, a Palestinian city known for its neoliberal aspirations and modern outlook, the camp remained a site of political and symbolic mobilization for revolution and change. Through a case study of the main local organization, the paper explores how the camp negotiates its position within the urban surroundings and national politics.
Urban margins: new perspectives on the city