When “Humanitarianism” Becomes “Development”: The Politics of International Aid in Syria's Palestinian Refugee Camps

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2012-03-01
Authors
Gabiam, Nell
Gabiam, Nell
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Political Science
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Anthropology
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Political ScienceAnthropology
Abstract

In recent years, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has attempted to go beyond its role as a provider of relief and basic services in Palestinian refugee camps and emphasize its role as a development agency. In this article, I focus on the Neirab Rehabilitation Project, an UNRWA-sponsored development project taking place in the Palestinian refugee camps of Ein el Tal and Neirab in northern Syria. I argue that UNRWA's role as a relief-centered humanitarian organization highlights the everyday suffering of Palestinian refugees, suffering that has become embedded in refugees’ political claims. I show that UNRWA's emphasis on “development” in the refugee camps is forcing Palestinian refugees in Ein el Tal and Neirab to reassess the political narrative through which they have understood their relationship with UNRWA.

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This article is from American Anthropologist 114 (2012): 95–107, doi:10.1111/j.1548-1433.2011.01399.x. Posted with permission.

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