Palestinian Political Factions: An Everyday Perspective
Date: 9 April 2014
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in Politics
This thesis is an ethnography of Palestinian political factions in Lebanon through an immersion in the daily life of homes. It explores the nature of factions and faction membership from the vantage point of those who form their very basis. It asks how did Palestinian political factions, which are clearly made of people, come to be ...
This thesis is an ethnography of Palestinian political factions in Lebanon through an immersion in the daily life of homes. It explores the nature of factions and faction membership from the vantage point of those who form their very basis. It asks how did Palestinian political factions, which are clearly made of people, come to be seen as autonomous bodies that are studied as a whole and spoken of in the singular (‘Fatah did this’ and ‘Hamas declared that’). Through a detailed account of the everyday practices of Palestinian refugees I problematise the underlying conceptualization of factions in the academic literature as bounded structures defined by their respective ideologies. I explore how factions appear in the daily life of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon; how Palestinians join factions; how their relationship evolves over time; how they demand, and at times obtain, aid; how and whether they participate in events organized by factions; and how factionalism affects their understandings of what factions are. This ethnographic approach reveals that what binds Palestinian refugees to factions is not the ideology or regional or international alliances of the factions. For example, young Palestinians do not join a faction based on whether it is Islamic, Marxist, or nationalist; rather they do so based on where they have friends or family, and sometimes depending on which faction has the closest youth centre to their home. In fact, it is those personal relationships, including those developed with other faction members that keep Palestinians affiliated to factions. Factions appear as a loose network of people held together by different degrees of trust and cohesion. Yet my work does not dismiss the fact that factions also appear as structures, as coherent entities. On the contrary, in the second part of this thesis, I trace another set of practices, that of aid distribution, criticism, physical representation, and factionalism, to show how factions metamorphose from loose networks based on interpersonal relations into impersonal structures defined by ideology. An examination of the everyday practices and representations of Palestinian political factions reveals how those structures come into being, how that operation creates and maintains a certain configuration of power in Palestinian society, and how factions remain the center of political life in the face of widespread condemnation.
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