Palestinian Studies

2019 Workshop

Kareem Rabie

Assistant Professor of Anthropology, American University

Housing and the Future of Palestine

For the 2019 NDPS conference, I propose to take up a central aspect of the call: the intertwined relationships of housing as capital investment into the built environment—physical space—and the social and practical relations—planning and property regimes, legal change, and so on—that shape and are shaped by ongoing interventions into the built environment. In Palestine, such changes are, obviously, “inextricably linked to relentless processes of demolitions, evictions, land dispossession, driven by the logics of settler colonialism and capitalist transformation within and beyond historic Palestine.” Yet they are also productive of new practices and logics at both the individual and government scales.

These questions are central to my work on private housing development and the state building project in the West Bank, and I will submit a paper that draws on and expands research and arguments in my forthcoming book. In doing so, I hope to combine the two scales of analysis into a discussion of the ways future is understood, practiced, and shaped by and through housing. A focus on the physical aspects of housing, the site of family relations and social reproduction, demonstrates its relationship to future possibilities and aspiration. Jumping scale to housing as a fundamental aspect of the built environment, demonstrates how building is crucial to driving legal changes to planning, property, and investment practices and possibilities for accumulation. Taken together, I explore how housing is fundamental to shaping the future of Palestine as a practical legal entity and as a social reality. What I mean a bit more concretely is that, as international development no longer sees the state and governance as a primary object, it works to enhance private investment and reform laws in order to support it. Housing is at the center of this economic practice as a scale of investment and intervention that has the capacity to create precedent change laws and relationships to the land, alter typology, but also to incorporate Palestinians into such a vision. Taking these two scales of analysis together, I ask: what does it mean to plan for the future in a context in which one is not guaranteed?

Kareem Rabie is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at American University in Washington, DC. He is completing his first book manuscript, Palestine is Throwing a Party and the Whole World is Invited: Private Development and State Building in the Contemporary West Bank, in press with Duke University. Before joining the faculty at AU, Kareem was Harper-Schmidt Fellow and Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences, as well as Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. In 2014–2015, Kareem was based at the University of Oxford, where he was a senior researcher and Marie Curie Fellow at the Center on Migration, Policy, and Society; and Research Associate at the Oxford Program on the Future of Cities. While at Oxford, he began research on the new economic geographies of Palestine–China trade.