Nina Gren, PhD, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University
Viewing ‘Palestine’ from the Diaspora

The last decades, the use of the term diaspora has basically exploded both among scholars and the general public. Diasporas seem to be everywhere and of very diverse kinds. Rogers Brubaker (2005) has warned that this inflation in the use of diaspora can make it useless as an analytical concept. Brubaker also alerts for the risks of essentializing diasporas as bounded, homogeneous units and of estimations of members in specific diasporas, which avoid the complexities of identity politics and of people’s diverse relations to place. Belonging to a diaspora shouldn’t merely be about counting ancestry. Brubaker’s suggestion is that research should rather focus on diaspora as a category of practice that is used to make claims, to make projects and mobilize energies.

From that point of departure, I want to discuss how different diasporic practices as well as different migration tracks among Palestinians in Denmark and Sweden create very diverse views of ‘those back home’, namely Palestinians who have not migrated, but who still live either in the West Bank or inside Israel. Those perceptions of Palestinians ‘back home’ range from romantic views of them as resisting and politicized subjects to more critical comments about conservatism and demanding social relations. Some of my interlocutors even said that they loved the country but not its people.

Nina Gren holds a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Gothenburg. Her doctoral thesis from 2009 builds on a one-year ethnographic fieldwork in a Palestinian refugee camp during the second intifada. In short, the study dealt with the many ways that the camp inhabitants tried to maintain continuity, morality and a normal order despite repeated emergencies. A book based on this research will be published in 2015 with the American University Press in Cairo. Nina has also done research about Danes and Swedes with a Palestinian background and their diasporic practices, while being a post doc at the University of Copenhagen. In addition, she has carried out fieldwork in UN-run schools for Palestinian refugee children, focusing on processes of gendered identity formations. Nina is currently an affiliated researcher at the Centre of Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and works as an external lecturer at the Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen.

Find out more about the Migration cluster at the Department of Social Anthropology.

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