Gendered Space, Power Relationships and Domestic Planning and Design among Displaced Israeli Bedouin

Citation:

Meir, Avinoam, and Maria Gekker. 2011. “Gendered Space, Power Relationships and Domestic Planning and Design among Displaced Israeli Bedouin.” Women’s Studies International Forum 34 (3): 232–41. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2011.01.010.

Authors: Avinoam Meir, Maria Gekker

Abstract:

Following displacement to State planned towns, Israeli Bedouin women lost many of their traditional agro-pastoral productive roles and became subject to stricter patriarchal confinement to their homes. Despite becoming the focus of their lifeworld, their involvement in establishing it, and their domestic gender planning and design relationships, have received little attention. In this study, roles of husbands and wives and participation in planning and designing their homes were examined in the new Bedouin town of Hura. Differences emerge between the displaced generation and the second urban generation, characterized by different ages and educational levels and varying accessibility to forbidden public spaces. This component of Bedouin women's identity and power has begun to recover, following deterioration after displacement. And yet the most significant involvement of women is restricted to the aesthetic, rather than to the physical domestic aspects of gendered relationships. Greater accessibility to hitherto forbidden public spaces has become a major source of changing internal domestic gender planning and design relationships.

The Bedouin of the Negev desert are part of Israel's internal refugee population resulting from the 1948 Israeli War of Independence/Palestinian Naqba (Abu-Rabia, 1994 and Abu-Rabia, 2002). Many of them have been twice displaced since then: first, from their traditional tribal territories and agro-pastoral subsistence economy into a militarily administered enclave, a phase that lasted until the mid-1960s, and second, since then, about half of the rapidly growing population into State planned towns. This process of settling in town after displacement has been extensively studied from a variety of cultural social economic and political perspectives (Meir, 1997 and Ben-David, 2004). One of its sub-processes is the novel experience of urban permanent home building, a most fundamental and critical one in striking roots in the new environment. Yet, despite receiving some attention (Ben-David, 1992 and Ben-David, 1993) and the recent spurt in research on Bedouin women, no attention whatsoever has been paid to the house project as a highly intensive arena of gendered relationships. In particular, research on Bedouin women misses here one of their most intimate spatial areas of experience within a patriarchal social setting, second only, perhaps, to the self and body. We refer to their unique need to both conceptually and physically reconstruct their homes, as well as their identities within them, amidst the deep socio-cultural crisis following forced relocation.

This paper is thus concerned with the gender dynamics of Bedouin husbands and wives in the process of domestic planning and design within the new semi-urban environment. The questions addressed refer to the process of gendered power relationships within the patriarchal household following displacement, how an understanding of improved women's access to other social and economic resources helps placing this process in context, and whether it is capable of empowering women externally within the Bedouin community at large.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Displacement & Migration, Forced Migration, IDPs, Urban Displacement, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Gender Equality/Inequality Regions: Africa, MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Israel

Year: 2011

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