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“Trying to Have an Identity without a Place in the World”

“Trying to Have an Identity without a Place in the World”

(p.39) 1 “Trying to Have an Identity without a Place in the World”
Unsettled Belonging
Thea Renda Abu El-Haj
University of Chicago Press

Young people’s sense of being Palestinian and belonging to a national community was produced through everyday practices that unfolded across transnational social fields, constituting an informal citizenship education. These identifications were bound up with an independence movement, co-constructing a sense of self, a notion of a people, and a relationship with an imagined national community. This chapter illustrates the range of practices through which this sense of belonging was produced. For example, after the Oslo Accords, many mothers moved back to Palestine in order to afford the children a cultural, linguistic, religious, and national education. In the U.S., most families lived in a tight-knit Palestinian community, routinely spoke Arabic and socialized together, worked to send remittances to family members in the Middle East, watched Arabic media, and participated in political advocacy for justice and peace in Palestine. Through these communal practices, Palestinian American youth developed a sense of belonging to a Palestinian national imaginary. The meaning and parameters of this imagined community were constructed in relation to three themes: connection to a particular land experienced as an intimate, moral space; a (contested) notion of cultural authenticity; and a sense of Palestinian identity as inextricably linked with suffering and sacrifice.

Keywords:   Palestinian American youth, transnationalism, belonging, community, cultural authenticity, transnational social fields, nationalism, Palestine, West Bank, occupation

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