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Landscape of Hope and Despair

Landscape of Hope and Despair: Palestinian Refugee Camps

Julie Peteet
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Landscape of Hope and Despair
    Book Description:

    Nearly half of the world's eight million Palestinians are registered refugees, having faced partition and exile. Landscape of Hope and Despair examines this refugee experience in Lebanon through the medium of spatial practices and identity, set against the backdrop of prolonged violence. Julie Peteet explores how Palestinians have dealt with their experience as refugees by focusing attention on how a distinctive Palestinian identity has emerged from and been informed by fifty years of refugee history. Concentrating ethnographic scrutiny on a site-specific experience allows the author to shed light on the mutually constitutive character of place and cultural identification. Palestinian refugee camps are contradictory places: sites of grim despair but also of hope and creativity. Within these cramped spaces, refugees have crafted new worlds of meaning and visions of the possible in politics. In the process, their historical predicament was a point of departure for social action and thus became radically transformed. Beginning with the calamity of 1948, Landscape of Hope and Despair traces the dialectic of place and cultural identification through the initial despair of the 1950s and early 1960s to the tumultuous days of the resistance and the violence of the Lebanese civil war and its aftermath. Most significantly, this study invokes space, place, and identity to construct an alternative to the received national narratives of Palestinian society and history. The moving stories told here form a larger picture of these refugees as a people struggling to recreate their sense of place and identity and add meaning to their surroundings through the use of culture and memory.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0031-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. Chapter One Introduction: Palestinian Refugees
    (pp. 1-33)

    This book on Palestinian refugees in Lebanon tells the story of a continuing journey through multiple places that has been propelled by intense violence. It explores how the refugees created a sense of place, identity, and meaning in new spaces, using the tools of culture, memory, and militancy. The construction of the Palestinian refugee as a category of person and an object of intervention both constrained and enabled the refugees’ practice of crafting new worlds. The book’s title encapsulates the contradictory meaning of refugee camps—sites of poverty, marginality, and terror as well as remarkable creativity. Thus they were places...

  5. Chapter Two Prelude to Displacement: Producing and Enacting Knowledge
    (pp. 34-46)

    Nations may well be imagined communities but they are also spatialized. Lefebvre argues of the state, “without the concepts of space and its production, the framework of power (whether as reality or concept) simply cannot achieve concreteness” (1991:281). Fashioning knowledge about space and its circulation is integral to producing and claiming it. My interest is to connect these spatializing strategies of the state to the production of a refugee population, a population in space.

    This chapter broaches the Zionist production of knowledge about the space and population of Palestine and the indigenous relation to place. Such knowledge was pivotal in...

  6. Chapter Three Aid and the Construction of the Refugee
    (pp. 47-92)

    The constitution of the Palestinian refugee has transpired in a multiplicity of places and historical periods and has been shaped by imbricated forms of power, knowledge, institutions and administrative-bureaucratic practices. Both conscious and serendipitous, these processes were historically situated and thus fluid. In other words, the best laid plans can always be waylaid by unexpected and unintended consequences. This chapter explores the centrality of an aid regime in the project of refashioning and managing Palestinians, collectively and individually, and the forms of knowledge on which the project was based and generated. As spatialized strategies for governance and reconstitution, the relief...

  7. Chapter Four Producing Place, Spatializing Identity, 1948–68
    (pp. 93-130)

    When I returned to Beirut in the early 1990s after a hiatus of nearly ten years, the contrast with Shatila camp in the 1970s and early 1980s was stunning. A once vibrant, jam-packed camp with a fairly decent standard of living was now a debris-encircled, rubble-filled, geosocially isolated, and poverty-stricken patch of land. The historicity of space, as well as its violently contested nature, was tangibly inscribed in the new perimeters and devastated interior. While the relationship between space and society, between spatial forms and power, and the role of history and social institutions in the built environment is theoretically...

  8. Chapter 5 Landscape of Hope and Despair
    (pp. 131-169)

    The camps could be seen as a built environment, as everyday abodes, and as places where possibilities for the future emerged, took shape, and were acted upon. Maintaining secrecy about the fidaʾiyyin signaled a community boundary, a defensive line of inclusion in a community of shared marginality and repression, and of militant action. This chapter explores place-making and identity in the resistance era (1968 82) and during the camp wars (1985–87), both periods of extraordinary violence. Rafiq and Abu Fadi’s statements evoke this landscape.

    Before the revolution, we couldn’t stack two stones on top of one another. When the...

  9. Chapter Six The Geography of Terror and Reconfinement
    (pp. 170-216)

    As the millennium came to a close, the inscription of violence assaulted one at every step: the armed guards ringing the camp, the massive piles of rubble from dynamited or shelled buildings left by nearly two decades of war, the open sewage systems, the somber black and white faces of the dead on posters plastered on nearly every wall, the pervasiveness of the handicapped, extreme forms of poverty, and the multitude of female-headed households. Shatila camp was a highly demarcated space; entry required a lengthy walk through Lebanese Shiʿа areas with a profusion of signs that proclaimed their territorial dominance...

  10. Conclusion: Refugee Camps and the Wall
    (pp. 217-226)

    A curious story circulated in the refugee camps in the 1990s and in the wider Palestinian exile community. A young boy from the Shatila refugee camp has a dream of the long awaited and fought for return to Palestine. All the refugees board buses and head south for the border. Once in Palestine, the people of the village of Tarshiha return to Tarshiha, the people of the village of al-Bassa return to al-Bassa, and so on. A busload of refugees from Shatila choose not to return to their places of origin. As former Shatila residents, they stay together and build...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 227-238)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-252)
  13. Index
    (pp. 253-260)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 261-261)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 262-262)