Palestinian Studies

2020 Workshop

Who Owns Palestine?

The seventh annual workshop of New Directions in Palestinian Studies (NDPS) to be held at Brown University on March 6–7, 2020. As detailed below, the theme title “Who Owns Palestine?” addresses a wide range of issues ranging from the political economy of land markets to the epistemological ecologies of territorial rights and contestations over historical narratives.

As with all NDPS workshops, proposals that put Palestinians at the center of the analysis are encouraged. We seek explorations of Palestinian experiences of different historical periods and locations—past and present, urban and rural, throughout historic Palestine and outside it—from the perspectives of various academic disciplines, as well as practitioners such as lawyers, urban planners, and artists.

Venue: Watson Institute, McKinney Conference Room
By invitation


This workshop invited papers on the past, present, and future of ownership and on what it means to “own”  Palestine. On the material level, the use and distribution of immovable property in the context of gender, generation, and class relations pre-date colonial rule and structure the different struggles against settler colonialism. For Palestinians within historic Palestine, private land ownership is the primary form of wealth and a perceived barrier (albeit, often ineffective) against expropriation. For Palestinians who have been expelled or displaced, property ownership can bring stability and belonging as well as political fragmentation and social conflict. All of these processes have consequences on what it means to be Palestinian and to have a right to Palestine. On a discursive level, Palestine’s religious importance and strategic location has made it a laboratory for competing trans-national visions of civilizational, religious, and political futures since at least the nineteenth century. Notions of ownership are thoroughly enmeshed in contested practices of naming, drawing, mapping, archiving, digging, and performing Palestine. Changing academic frameworks of knowledge production also thrust the question of ownership into new domains of disciplinary power. 

NDPS welcomed paper proposals on a wide range of questions, including: Can Palestinians own Palestine under a regime of absolute private property? How does the right to own force the Palestinians, like other indigenous peoples, to prove ownership on the occupier’s terms? As the Palestinian Authority’s attempt to survey, register, and privatize unfolds, how is the relationship between ownership, social struggles, and wider collective territorial questions changing? What are the possibilities and limits of knowledge production shaped by these legal, political, and economic imperatives? How is ownership represented and claimed beyond documents and legal institutions?

Format and Logistics

The 2020 New Directions in Palestinian Studies (NDPS) workshop called for papers that creatively engage these and the myriad other questions about ownership. The workshop format facilitates intellectual exchange via pre-circulated papers, brief presentations, and extended discussions in panels over a two-day period. Invited senior and mid-career scholars usually chair panels and/or participate in discussions, while most presentation slots are reserved for younger scholars.

Proposals of approximately 500 words were submitted along with a brief CV before November 4, 2019. Selected participants were notified by November 14 and asked to submit a full-length paper of 4,000–7,000 words by 10 February 2020 for pre-circulation. Panels were organized around themes that emerged from the papers. All paper presenters are expected to give NDPS first right to publication. We plan to publish selected papers either as double-blind refereed articles in the Jerusalem Quarterly and the Journal of Palestine Studies or as an edited volume in the NDPS open-access book series with the University of California Press.

Middle East Studies at Brown will reimburse reasonable travel expenses and two nights lodging (three nights for those coming from overseas) for paper presenters and discussants. For those traveling from abroad, please keep in mind that reimbursement is possible only for those entering the United States on a Visa Waiver Business (VWB) or B-1 visa. Please direct any questions to

About NDPS

Over the past generation, the field of Palestine and Palestinian studies has grown rapidly, attracting some of the best and brightest scholars. NDPS provides a platform for new lines of inquiry that seek to decolonize, globalize, and de-exceptionalize knowledge production about the Palestinians. Launched in 2012 as a research initiative of Brown University’s Middle East Studies program, NDPS is dedicated to supporting the work and careers of emerging scholars through annual workshops, an endowed post-doctoral fellowship, and a book series.

NDPS workshops—“Palestinian Homes and Houses: Subjectivities and Materialities” (2019), “The Shadow Years: Material Histories of Everyday Life” (2018), “The Politics of Archives and the Practices of Memory” (2017), “Approaches to Research on Palestinian and the Palestinians” (2016), “Political Culture and the Culture of Politics” (2015), and “Political Economy and the Economy of Politics” (2014)—have earned a reputation for frank and rigorous discussions that bring together three generations of scholars. Ultimately, the discussions consider the intellectual, ethical, and moral stakes of new research agendas in Palestinian Studies and the political spaces they open and foreclose.