“Protection Amid Chaos: The Creation of Property Rights in Palestinian Refugee Camps”


Dr. Nadya Hajj
Author and Assistant Professor of Political Science, Wellesley College

*A light lunch is served at 12:30 p.m. Talk begins promptly at 1:00 p.m.

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 is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Middle East Studies at Wellesley College. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia and attained her MA and PhD from Emory University. At Wellesley, she teaches Comparative Politics, Political Economy, and Middle East politics. Her research examines how refugee communities, and in particular Palestinian refugees, created order in the midst of chaotic political economic landscapes. She spent more than ten years conducting interviews in refugee camps across Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. Her research has been published in the Journal of Policy Studies and Comparative Politics

Copies of Protection Amid Chaos will be available for purchase at the event.


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