Call for papers: Workshop on Palestinian Refugee Camps in Jordan

Posted: November 8, 2010 by Rex Brynen in conferences, Jordan, UNRWA

The Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL) and the French Institute for the Near East (IFPO) are organizing a workshop on “Palestinian Refugee Camps in Jordan: A Lasting Temporariness: Population, Space and Social Practices, 1990-2010,” to be held on 7 March 2011, in Amman:

Call for participation

Workshop on Palestinian Refugee Camps in Jordan

A Lasting Temporariness: Population, Space and Social Practices, 1990-2010

Amman, Jordan

Monday, 7 March 2011

Location: CBRL

Organized by the Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL) and the French Institute for the Near East (IFPO)


The first Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan were established almost 60 years ago following the 1948 Israeli-Arab war. Originally located on the outskirts of the city, the camps were set up by the Red Cross as temporary, emergency shelter for displaced Palestinians.

Over time, many camps have become thriving urban spaces connected with their surrounding neighborhoods. Today, the camps look like other working-class neighborhoods of the city rather than resembling ‘temporary places’.

Despite appearances, camps officially remain temporary spaces. The management and organization of the camps reflects their distinctiveness. Camps are not managed by the municipality but fall under the control of the Department of Palestinian Affairs (DPA – a Jordanian governmental body) and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Over the years, refugees have relied heavily on UNRWA’s services such as food rations, housing in the camps, medical services, and schooling.


This one day workshop will focus on the social and spatial organization of the camps, the social practices of their inhabitants, and the influences, interpretations and effects of what we call a lasting temporariness on the Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan. Due to their significance and status, the camps represent key social spaces for exploring patterns of interaction between different religious groups and national minorities, for examining governance, for studying development and planning issues (infrastructure and services), for mapping the constitution of territories and identities, and for analyzing the development of an intricate network of economic and political connections inside and outside of their spaces.

Palestinian refugee camps have been the focus of numerous conferences and studies. We propose to investigate this oft studied and ever important issue by addressing the impact of several key events, between 1990 and 2010, on the evolution of refugee camps in Jordan. The events will include, but are not limited to: the disengagement from the West Bank in July 1988, the economic crisis, the Oslo Peace agreement in 1993 and the peace treaty with Israel in 1994, the death of King Hussein in 1999, and the Second Intifada.


The conference is interdisciplinary and therefore appeals to theoretical studies as well as case studies carried out in a wide range of domains (anthropology, history, geography, sociology, etc.). We believe that it is by engaging these multiple perspectives that it will be possible to better understand the main evolutions of refugee camps, understood as spatial and social spaces. It is open to researchers (from master students to PhD candidates, senior researchers) and professionals. The goal of our conference is to share experiences and provide a better picture of Palestinian refugee camps and their inhabitants in Jordan: exploring the transversal dynamics, as well as the particularities, that have characterized the camps and their evolution, and fully documenting the ways in which refugees in the camps are engaged in the creative activity of interpreting their life. Comparisons between Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan and elsewhere in Middle East are also welcome.


The workshop will be divided in two sessions


Initially conceived as short-term solution, camps have, over time, undergone a process of urbanization and infrastructure development that spiked in the 1990’s and 2000’s. Houses of several stories have replaced tents and shelters. New roads have also been established through the camps or around the perimeter. But what does ‘development’ or ‘planning’ mean in places intended to be temporary and untouchable for political or ownership reasons? How do the stakeholders reconcile the need to preserve the temporariness of the camp with the need to modernize the country? Though, officially, refugee camps are still established on private land borrowed by the Jordanian government, the nature and practicality of camp governance and maintenance remains unclear. Is it UNRWA, DPA, Municipalities, NGOs or other institutions that are responsible? Are the development and the management of these spaces linked with broader planning and governance schemes? What are the effects on population and the territory? In what ways do these processes of development and governance oblige us to reconceptualise the characteristics of what constitutes a refugee camps? Finally, how does this reconceptualization reflect an evolution in the strategies of management of a population through the ‘apparatus’ of the camp? And, especially, how is it linked with broader regional or local issues and events?


For Palestinian refugees, as for everybody else, social events are often the source of conflicting and complex emotions. Events such as football matches, ceremonial gatherings, Palestinian folk music, and dance performances are occasions highly charged with distinctly Palestinian symbolism. Therefore, collective participation in such events can reaffirm the Palestinian-ness of participants. On the other hands, for many refugees, these gatherings can be simply opportunities to have fun or get bored. We are interested in exploring the role of public events such as ceremonies, festivities, football matches, commemorations, demonstrations, and festivals in the camps as powerful means of social expressions and transmission of memory. Shifting our attention to private celebrations, we also want to investigate the significance of events such as funerals and marriages. Have these gatherings changed over the years? If yes, which traditional ritual elements have persisted, and which not? On a discursive level, we also want to examine the use of public gatherings and celebrations by different groups, institutions and organizations – such as Islamic associations, local and international NGOs, UNRWA and the Jordanian Government – in their search for political control and legitimacy.

Participation submissions procedure:

Proposals should not exceed 900 words and should be addressed to the following email: and, before 10 December 2010. Please save your documents as Format Word or RTF with your name and surname in the filename of the document.

If the abstract is accepted, the author will be committed to sending a short presentation of about 5000 words before 10 February 2011


Participants will present their papers, after which they will benefit from comments and inputs from discussants who are specialists in the field of Palestinian studies, migration, and urban development, amongst others.


No registration costs. Accommodation for two nights at IFPO and CBRL (not in hotels) is provided by organisers within the limits of available places. If needed additional financial support can be requested to organizers but is not guaranteed (depending on availability of sponsors organisers may be able to cover some costs).


Organizers will examine the possibility of a collective publication of reworked papers.


Luigi ACHILLI (SOAS and IFPO): and Lucas OESCH (IHEID and IFPO):

Any queries should be directed to the conference organizers (emails listed above).

  1. […] A Lasting Temporariness: Population, Space and Social Practices, 1990-2010, Amman, 7 March 2011 [info]– Abstracts are due by 10 December […]

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