Protection Amid Chaos

The Creation of Property Rights in Palestinian Refugee Camps

Nadya Hajj

Columbia University Press

Protection Amid Chaos

Pub Date: December 2016

ISBN: 9780231180627

232 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $50.00£40.00

Pub Date: December 2016

ISBN: 9780231542920

232 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $49.99£40.00

Protection Amid Chaos

The Creation of Property Rights in Palestinian Refugee Camps

Nadya Hajj

Columbia University Press

The right to own property is something we generally take for granted. For refugees living in camps, in some cases for as long as generations, the link between citizenship and property ownership becomes strained. How do refugees protect these assets and preserve communal ties? How do they maintain a sense of identity and belonging within chaotic settings?

Protection Amid Chaos follows people as they develop binding claims on assets and resources in challenging political and economic spaces. Focusing on Palestinians living in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan, it shows how the first to arrive developed flexible though legitimate property rights claims based on legal knowledge retained from their homeland, subsequently adapted to the restrictions of refugee life. As camps increased in complexity, refugees merged their informal institutions with the formal rules of political outsiders, devising a broader, stronger system for protecting their assets and culture from predation and state incorporation.

For this book, Nadya Hajj conducted interviews with two hundred refugees. She consults memoirs, legal documents, and findings in the United Nations Relief Works Agency archives. Her work reveals the strategies Palestinian refugees have used to navigate their precarious conditions while under continuous assault and situates their struggle within the larger context of communities living in transitional spaces.
Nadya Hajj asks an important question – namely, why and how do property rights get institutionalized in "transitional" contexts? With so many places in the world characterized by unpredictability and uncertainty, this question resonates far beyond the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon and Jordan. Based on a treasure trove of data from in-depth interviews and original documents, among other sources, Hajj traces the evolution of property rights in the camps over time, showing how they evolved from informal understandings of ownership to formal legal claims as Palestinians sought greater predictability in their lives. These strategies, however, had ambiguous effects: On the one hand, the formalization of property rights afforded refugees a measure of protection. On the other, they exposed them to greater control by external actors such as the Jordanian state, the Lebanese military, and the Palestinian Fatah. Hajj's impressive work sheds light on a critical and enduring question of great consequence for macro-level development outcomes and for micro-level concerns of people living in uncertain conditions. Melani Cammett, Harvard University
Hajj has written an outstanding book on the politics of Palestinian property rights in the refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. With careful precision, Hajj documents the circumstances that resulted in the degree of Palestinian property rights formalization across the various camps. The book masterfully documents the debates and strategic considerations confronting dislocated and dispossessed Palestinians as they began to build local communities in their new settings. Amaney A. Jamal, Princeton University
With unprecedented numbers of displaced people across the Middle East, this book provides a timely and powerful analysis of how refugee communities seek to establish and enforce property rights in conflict and transitional settings. Drawing on her extensive research in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon, the author combines rich empirical documentation with original theoretical insights. Essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how refugee communities adapt to insecure environments. Jeannie Sowers, The University of New Hampshire
An elegantly written, rigorously researched, theoretically rich and compelling investigation on how and why private property rights develop in transitional settings. International Journal of Refugee Law
List of Figures, Maps, and Tables
Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations and Translations
Note on Arabic Transliteration
Introduction
1. A Theory of Property Right Formation in Palestinian Refugee Camps
2. Crafting Informal Property Rights in Fawdah
3. Formal Property Rights in Refugee Camps in Jordan
4. Formal Property Rights in Refugee Camps in Lebanon
5. Renegotiating Property Rights in Nahr al-Bared Camp
Conclusion
Appendix A: Titles from NBC and Beddawi in Arabic with English Translations
Appendix B: Research Methods
Notes
References
Index

About the Author

Nadya Hajj is an assistant professor of political science at Wellesley College.