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(p.1) Introduction
Unsettled Belonging
Thea Renda Abu El-Haj
University of Chicago Press

This chapter introduces the countervailing politics of belonging and citizenship with which this book is centrally concerned. On one hand, young Palestinian Americans navigated and constructed belonging and citizenship across transnational social fields. At the same time, they encountered an exclusionary politics of belonging emerging out of the routine practices of everyday U.S. nationalism inside their schools—a politics of belonging that was in place well before September 11, 2001 and that remains steadfast to this day. Taking an anthropological perspective on citizenship as lived experience through which people negotiate social, cultural, and political membership, this book analyzes a fundamental schism between the ways the Palestinian American youth experienced and constructed transnational citizenship and belonging, and the ways they were positioned as “impossible subjects” of the nation, despite their juridical status as citizens. School was the central site at which this disjuncture unfolded, for it is the primary state institution through which young people from immigrant communities encounter normative discourses of citizenship and belonging. The chapter offers an overview of the research project, and a brief introduction to the recent history of Palestine.

Keywords:   Palestinian American youth, citizenship, belonging, transnationalism, nationalism, immigration, citizenship education, history of Palestine, war on terror, Muslims

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