Refugee camp spaces are widely analyzed against their host territories. They are constantly associated with isolation and time–space suspension. However, empirical studies show that camps are not simply islands unto themselves. They can have varying levels of interactions with their surroundings. This paper is concerned with contextualizing the Palestinian refugee camps in the Gaza Strip by examining four inseparable dimensions: spatial, socioeconomic, political and time. It unfolds the historical and contemporary interplay between camp and non-camp areas and shows the similarities and distinctions between them. The findings are based on the analysis and fieldwork of Jabalya refugee camp, the largest in the Gaza Strip. Ethnographic research tools are used in addition to text and historical aerial photo analysis. The paper concludes that in a context such as the Gaza Strip in which the majority of the population are refugees, there is a great deal of connectivity between camps and non-camp areas. The camps are far from being described as enclaves, bare lives, or state of exception. The distinctions between them and their surroundings are very subtle. To a large extent, the camps in the Gaza Strip represent a special case of connectivity to a level that has normalized the territory to become a large enclaved refugee space.
Contextualizing the Palestinian Refugee Camps in the Gaza Strip
Shadi Saleh is at the Department of Architecture, KU Leuven Science Engineering and Technology Group, Leuven, Belgium. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Shadi Saleh; Contextualizing the Palestinian Refugee Camps in the Gaza Strip. Contemporary Arab Affairs 10 December 2020; 13 (4): 3–23. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/caa.2020.13.4.3
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