Senter for kvinne- og kjønnsforskning

The politics and aesthetic of waiting in Palestinian refugee camps

Ruba Salih fra Department of Anthropology and Sociology, SOAS University of London, snakker om "temporalitet" og flyktninger i palestinske flyktningleirer.

seminar rom
Janne B. Bøe


In the social sciences, the time and space of refugeehood is conventionally conceived as one of  temporariness and waithood. Refugee camps are often analysed through the prism of exception or suspension of sovereignty, and forced migrants or refugees are mainly seen as affective communities of trauma and suffering. In addition, the (European) national-statist time space/horizon continues to be the bedrock against which experiences and subjectivities of those on the move are read and interpreted.

The refugee camp, in this political imaginary, is an abnormality, a barren place-time in which refugees are suspended, or trapped, merely waiting for their re-insertion into a national order of things. Refugee life acquires the ontological quality of Non-Life, of waiting for sovereign life. In this paper, I investigate what happens when waiting is a permanent horizon of life across generations, like in the case of encamped Palestinian refugees who have been displaced since 1948.

In my work on and with Palestinian refugees, particularly in the occupied West Bank, I explore waithood as a politically productive condition, and the refugee camp as the most potent embodiment of this condition. An ethnography of the politics and aesthetic of the camp reveals ways in which temporariness is a powerful antidote to normalisation under the longue durée of the occupation.

Comments by Kjersti G. Berg, Post doctor at CMI. She is working on the FRIPRO project "SuperCamp: Geneaologies of humanitarian containment in the Middle East". In this project she is focusing on Palestinian refugees, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and the Shu'fat refugee camp in Jerusalem.