Reconstructing Place and Memory in the Jenin Refugee Camp

Jenin, West Bank
Middle East

This research project examines the social and physical implications of the Jenin camp invasion and reconstruction project. As a critical examination of humanitarian development in a context of military occupation, our research seeks to elucidate the complex ways in which urban violence, displacement, human rights, participatory development and humanitarianism, and urban planning and renewal combine to create, reinforce, and challenge forms of inequality in everyday life. Thus framed, our research objectives include several key issues in the study of development, mobility, and inequality. First, our research considers the possibilities and limits of neutrality in the context of humanitarian development. Among a population of stateless refugees living under military occupation, how does the discourse and practice of humanitarian development construct its own narrative of neutrality? Second, our research examines how development practice functions in ways that promote inclusionary/exclusionary forms of participation. How did reconstruction efforts reconcile the needs of contemporary urban planning with the rights and needs of refugees to build according to the realities presented by the Israeli occupation? Third, this project considers how participatory development enabled particular forms of equality/inequality between, on the one hand, international planners and the refugee community, and, on the other, between refugees themselves. How did the organization and inclusion of refugees facilitate/reinforce/challenge local forms of power? How did the newly created area of the camp reflect local inequalities between refugees? Finally, our research considers the post-reconstruction implications of the camp’s new design for social life. How does the built environment relate to the politics of identity and place among refugees? What structural inequalities does the built environment reinscribe? What are the memories of the invasion and how do they relate to the physical realities of the camp today?