Self-governance under protracted encampment in the West Bank
(German Historical Institute - Warsaw)
Paper short abstract:
The paper explores mechanisms of self-governance in three protracted refugee camps in the West Bank. It shows how the institution building and self-organization efforts have transformed the camps into strong local communities and elevated their position in the Palestinian politics.
Paper long abstract:
Following the work of Giorgio Agamben, refugee camps have often been conceptualized as spatial tools of biopolitical control placed outside the normal judicial order, designed to guard off the displaced from host populations and silence any forms of political expression. Such model is challenged by the reality of protracted camps that become sites of long-term residency, where new forms of social and urban order emerge and various networks develop between refugees and the neighboring communities. While most studies on protracted encampment focus on identity politics and memory practices, this paper explores self-governance projects in long-term camps. Based on the case of three West Bank refugee camps established in late 1940s, I investigate mechanisms of institution building and self-organization that transformed these places from provisional sites of shelter into strong local communities of high political mobilization. In particular, I focus on the example of youth centers that have over past six decades emerged as important platforms of self-governance and political participation in the studied camps, surpassing their official profile as sport, cultural and social institutions for local youth. Through the analyzes of politics in and around the youth centers, the paper shows how the seemingly marginal and unregulated status of West Bank camps have rendered them spaces of political mobilization against the status quo.
Jungles, squats, camps and houses: ethnographic accounts of refugee dwelling practices in the context of the recent "refugee crisis" in Europe and the Middle East