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Learning Palestine: the construction of Palestinian identities in south Lebanon

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:33 authored by Kathleen Fincham
This thesis explores how Palestinian youth in Lebanon construct their identities in the context of statelessness. Specifically, the study examines how Palestinian youth in south Lebanese refugee camps and gatherings understand and perform their identities vis-à-vis nationality, gender and religion; how the discursive resources of identity are appropriated and articulated in everyday life within the camps and how Palestinian identities in Lebanon have shifted across exilic generations, all in the absence of formal state structures. Acknowledging that Palestinian young men and women are meaningful actors in their own right, I have engaged in interpretivist inquiry and sought to capture and reconstruct the subjective meanings placed on social life by Palestinian youth in Lebanon through a case study. Given this methodological perspective, I have used semi-structured interviews, focus groups and Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) approaches as research methods within this study. In light of the vulnerability of Palestinians as a refugee population situated within the larger context of Western imperialism and colonialism in the Middle East, I have drawn on post-structuralist, post-colonialist and feminist theoretical frameworks to interrogate the data. The findings of this study show that Palestinian youth in Lebanon construct their identities through nationalist discourses of shared history, kinship, culture and religion. This is accomplished over time through the production and reproduction of symbolic systems in and through the institutional sites of the school, the family, political organizations, the media and religious institutions. Through these processes, Palestine is constructed as different from 'Other' nations and 'Palestinian-ness' as distinct from 'Other' national identity positions. However, the processes of national signification described above produce identities that are in a constant state of flux and transformation across time and space. Moreover, internal contestations are produced, particularly in relation to religion, gender and generation, which trouble and problematize the notion of a singular and homogenous Palestinian identity. The case study research presented in this thesis explores how Palestinian young people come to understand themselves and learn to navigate their lives both in relation to and in distinction from external 'Others' and dominant 'imaginings' of 'Palestinian-ness'


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