Lajeh Seminar, May 10, 2018, Ifpo Amman (Library) – 9.30-11.30 am

Marriages, Displacement, and Representations: Marriage Practices and Discourses among Aid Providers and Refugees in Jordan

Dina Zbeidy

This presentation investigates the discursive and non-discursive practices of problematization of marriage related issues among Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Jordan. UN agencies and other local and international organizations are important service providers for the Palestinian and Syrian residents in Jordan, especially those living in refugee camps. Women and gender issues are a dominant theme in human rights discourse and intervention processes of these organizations in which marriage often occupies a central place. With a focus on the residents of Wihdat, a Palestinian camp set up in East Amman over seventy years ago, I present the effects of the interaction between intervention projects of aid and development organizations, with the residents of Wihdat. I argue that while organizations focus on ‘raising awareness’ of camp residents and lobby for legal reform, basing their interventions on international women and human rights, Palestinians and Syrians navigate marriages based on legality (and legal status and papers), economy (and the specific socio-economic environment of the camp), feelings of belonging, and affect.

I also argue that organizations produce a specific narrative around victimhood and vulnerability in which a victim girl is oppressed by both her patriarchal society, and by harsh socio-economic conditions, that in the case of Syrians are amplified by displacement. These conditions are seen to contribute to problematic forms of marriages (such as early, forced and unregistered). The ethnographic cases presented however, show that vulnerability is an ambiguous and complex experience, and that being vulnerable and having a degree of agency and autonomy are not mutually exclusive.

Dina Zbeidy is a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Jerusalem in Social and Political Sciences. In 2010 she received the Fulbright Scholarship to complete a Master’s degree in Anthropology at the University of Columbia in New York. Her MA thesis discusses the construction of Palestinian and Israeli identities in Israel. She is currently part of the ERC-funded ‘Muslim Marriages’ program. Her PhD research focuses on civil society and refugee discourse around marriage in Jordan. She has over eight years of professional experience in NGO work in Palestine and the Netherlands.