Victor Nygren, PhD student, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Open Ramallah

As Palestine enters its seventh decade of contested existence alongside Israel, its administrative capital Ramallah has experienced a period of strong economic growth, rapid urbanization, internal migration, and centralization of Palestinian National Authority institutions in the city since the end of the second intifada in 2005. Based on fieldwork in the Ramallah region of the West Bank between 2017 and 2019, this presentation will focus on the role of the city in the constant struggle for mobility, both spatial and social, and on how urban and rural spaces take on meaning(s) in a strife for social possibilities at home and elsewhere.

Through my material, I aim to represent Palestine as a place of partial connectivity by examining Ramallah as one possible node for the negotiation of meaningful ‘insides’ and ‘outsides’. These imagined geographies are constructed using migratory pasts, presents, and futures, transnational networks, social media and gossip that combine in shaping the desired and aspired to spatial practices and life-styles among youth in Ramallah. Importantly, insides and outsides exist both within the West Bank, historical Palestine, and in the world beyond. The desire to ‘get out’ is of central concern to many young Ramallahns trying to navigate their way towards a better future. Economic, safety, and security concerns are mixed with a search for ‘openness’ or escape from ‘closedness’, concepts associated with places and peoples’ level of tolerance for unorthodox behavior and expressions of self. I argue that the experienced lack of openness in Palestinian society is part of a larger process of class distinction and depends on a capacity to aspire to a certain future self in a specific location.

Victor Nygren is a PhD student at the Department of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University.

All seminars in the series.