The Urban Politics Of Palestinian Exile: Subjectivity, Space, and Architectural Practice in an Informal Neighborhood

Authors: Heba Alnajada*,
Topics: Migration, Middle East, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: exile, peripheral urbanization, informality, subjectivity
Session Type: Paper


Since the 1948 exodus, Palestinian exiles crossed borders to Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. They found shelter in refugee camps set up by international humanitarian aid or began setting up their own tents on squatted lands. Since then, different actors have been working within informal neighborhoods, to include humanitarian organizations, local and international NGOs, and practitioners. This paper sets from an attempt to read informal neighborhoods through the lens of peripheral urbanization and exile. Illustrated by a particular historic case of Palestinian exiles in Amman, Jordan - Jabal Al Natheef -. I will explore how, on the one hand, the complex terrain of exiles are manifested and negotiated by ordinary Palestinians in their every day lives. And how on the other hand, NGO's and architects negotiate their everyday work. Thinking through exilic subjectivity, to use Edward Said’s terms, the first part of the paper examines the consciousness of the self that is specific to exilic experience. The second part attempts to spatialize Jabal Al Natheef, by looking at the relation between exiles, the state, and different actors. It shows the complex political struggle where informality becomes a tool for negotiating value and space. And how within these processes unique exilic subjectivities emerge. In conclusion and in line with the evidence for agency, in the final part, I reflect on my own work as an architect, and how the exile of the masses presents us new ways to study how people produce and negotiate urban space in new host countries.

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