Housing and Generality in Palestine Studies
real estate

This paper argues that housing in Palestine might both require and productively enable wider analytical approaches in Palestine studies. Drawing on ethnographic material on privatization and state building in the West Bank, this paper raises questions about the local and more general meanings of class, homeownership, and private property. It discusses some changing ideas of the land in Palestine that can be blurred by place-specific approaches to real estate development. This paper proposes to make a method intervention and to add a more processual understanding of political economy and geography to academic work on housing and on Palestine. It expands outward to argue occupation is not only present through the physical, visible state apparatus, but functions to invisibly and mutually orient Palestine’s relationship to capital, to the rest of the world, and to Israel. Occupation is a matter not just of closure but of unequally distributing openings in ways that affirmatively produce and reconfigure the relationships between Palestine and Palestinians, and possible futures. Thus, present forms of building are not simply about emulating a coherent structure and imposition. Instead, housing appears as an outcome of larger processes through which different classes of Palestinians are implicated with international actors and phenomena. Housing is a realization of uneven, generalizing material processes that inform contexts and social relations, and continually shape political economic interventions.

Author biography: 

Kareem Rabie is assistant professor of anthropology at the American University in Washington, DC. He would like to thank Paul Kohlbry and Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins for their careful reading and comments, Beshara Doumani and Alex Winder for inviting him to contribute, and also the two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments. Some of the material presented here will appear in his forthcoming book to be published by Duke University Press in spring 2021.

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