Power Structure, Agency, and Family in a Palestinian Refugee Camp


Rosenfeld, Maya. 2002. “Power Structure, Agency, and Family in a Palestinian Refugee Camp.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 34 (3): 519–51.

Author: Maya Rosenfeld


This article seeks to explain the generation, spread, and reproduction of post-secondary education in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank since the inception of this process in the 1950s and into the 1990s, with a focus on the period of Israeli military occupation. It is based on the findings, qualitative and quantitative, of extended socio-anthropological field research that was carried out in Dheisheh camp in the years 1992–95. The conceptual framework that instructed the research methodology and the interpretation of the findings sought to combine a political-economy approach, which accords centrality to the determinants of the “system” of power relationships—in this case, primarily those of the military-occupation regime—with an analysis of “human agency” or praxis, particularly the reorganization of the division of labor in the refugee family household over the years and generations. Accordingly, the article explores and traces the inter-relationships among (1) “system-imposed” barriers and obstacles to the acquisition of education by Dheisheh refugees and to their education-related job mobility; (2) family-based patterns of organization that developed around the education and employment opportunities of second- and third-generation refugees in the face of impeding structural conditions; (3) the long-range consequences of the resultant “education and labor process” for the transformation of socio-economic relationships within the family and the community.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Refugee/IDP Camps, Education, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Households, Political Economies Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Palestine / Occupied Palestinian Territories

Year: 2002

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