Current Institutional Affiliation
Aronson Assistant Professor, Political Science and International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Political Science, University of Chicago
Reinventing Resistance: Palestinian Refugee Camps and Post-PLO Politics in Lebanon

Sixty years after the first Palestinian camps were established in Lebanon, refugee districts have become sites of a vibrant, multifaceted, and frequently contentious political debate. While the Palestinian polity has always reflected multiple ideologies, the PLO dominated military and social institutions in Lebanon from the mid-1960s until it withdrew in 1982. Afterwards, as Palestinians in Lebanon encountered war, occupation, reconstruction, and internal conflict, novel groups and forms of political order emerged within the camps. My project asks how new organizations filled the void left by the PLO and why different camps followed drastically divergent political trajectories. I focus on three critical themes: analyzing interactions between Palestinian groups and external actors such as Hizb Allah; evaluating the consequences of inter-factional competition for social capital and prestige; and building an understanding of how and when Palestinian organizations drew upon different social and political resources. I argue that groups’ varied use of local social networks and strategic international alliances to gain influence led to distinctive patterns of organizational development and divergent practices of intra-camp governance. Methodologically, this dissertation combines ethnographic techniques with organizational and network analysis to focus on political organizations as the central brokers between local Palestinian communities and external actors such as the Lebanese state and the international community. It contributes to theoretical literature by showing that organizational approaches are particularly well-suited to explaining how political order(s) can develop in contexts where the state is weak or absent. I also challenge previous scholarship on both the Middle East and on militant factions by combining organizational perspectives with work on governance, mobilization, and political violence.