The Common Camp: Architecture of Power and Resistance in Israel-Palestine, Irit Katz

Reviewed by Nadya Hajj

In 2004, after completing six months of field research in the Nahr al Bared refugee camp, I found myself seated next to a young Lebanese woman in Beirut's Rafic Hariri International airport departure lounge. The woman causally asked if I had enjoyed my visit to Lebanon, and I replied—in Arabic—that it was a lovely country though I spent most of my time in a mukhayyam or “camp.” She was baffled by my response, “You mean you have been camping in the woods for six months?” Initially, I laughed at her response because I thought she was joking. After all, in Lebanon there are twelve Palestinian refugee camps and more than 250,000 Palestinian refugees. The camps have existed since 1948. The refugee camps seemed geographically visible and politically prominent to me; but the Lebanese woman said she felt the camps were hidden from the Lebanese gaze. This airport lounge experience had always puzzled me, and it was not until encountering The Common Camp that I finally had a robust theoretical lens to make sense of the multivalent meaning of “the camp” and its use as a modern political tool for wielding power.

The “common camp” is a term that Irit Katz uses to pull the notion of the “camp” out of its marginal position and establish it as a common space at “the cent

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