Video abstract – “The Agnotology of Eviction in South Lebanon’s Palestinian Gatherings: How Institutional Ambiguity and Deliberate Ignorance Shape Sensitive Spaces” by Nora Stel

Just published in our November 2016 issue–Antipode volume 48, number 5–Nora Stel’s “The Agnotology of Eviction in South Lebanon’s Palestinian Gatherings: How Institutional Ambiguity and Deliberate Ignorance Shape Sensitive Spaces” takes on one of the most pressing issues of the day–the lives of migrants. Focus in North America and Western Europe has been rather too “domestic” of late, with many fretting about migrants coming “over here” (and walls of all kinds going up everywhere…). This superb paper offers something very different, exploring everyday life in Lebanese camps for Palestinian refugees.

A significant part of Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees live in unofficial camps, so-called “gatherings”; many of these gatherings on Lebanese land are now threatened with eviction. By means of two qualitative case studies this article explores responses to such eviction threats. Residents, it turns out, engage in deliberate disinformation and stalling tactics and invoke both a professed and real ignorance about their situation. In contrast to dominant discourses that project Palestinian refugees as illicit and undermining sovereignty, “The Agnotology of Eviction…” explains these tactics as a reaction to, and duplication of, a “politics of uncertainty” implemented by Lebanese authorities. Drawing on agnotology theory, and reconsidering the gatherings as sensitive spaces subjected to aleatory governance, it proposes that residents’ responses to the looming evictions are a manifestation of the deliberate institutional ambiguity that Lebanese authorities impose on the gatherings. As such, the article contributes to understanding the spatial dimensions of strategically imposed ignorance.

Nora currently works as a research fellow at the Maastricht School of Management, and is a PhD candidate, researching the grassroots governance interaction between the Lebanese state and Palestinian popular committees in Lebanon, at Utrecht University’s Center for Conflict Studies. As well as Antipode, you can read her work on Lebanon and Palestine in the Journal of Development StudiesDevelopment and ChangeConflict, Security, and DevelopmentMediterranean Politics, and the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, among other places.

*         *         *

For more on “agnotology”, that is, the study of ignorance, of “why, and with what consequences, don’t we know what we don’t know?”, see also:

Tom Slater’s “The Myth of ‘Broken Britain’: Welfare Reform and the Production of Ignorance”; and

Jonathan Mendel and Kiril Sharapov’s “Human Trafficking and Online Networks: Policy, Analysis, and Ignorance”.

On “Aleatory Sovereignty and the Rule of Sensitive Spaces”, see Elizabeth Cullen Dunn and Jason Cons’ great Antipode essay.

And on the Palestinian struggle, see:

Ruba Salih’s “Bodies That Walk, Bodies That Talk, Bodies That Love: Palestinian Women Refugees, Affectivity, and the Politics of the Ordinary”;

Mark Griffiths’ “Hope in Hebron: The Political Affects of Activism in a Strangled City”;

Caitlin Ryan’s “Gendering Palestinian Dispossession: Evaluating Land Loss in the West Bank”;

Ron Smith’s “Isolation Through Humanitarianism: Subaltern Geopolitics of the Siege on Gaza”; and

Mikko Joronen’s “Death comes knocking on the roof’: Thanatopolitics of Ethical Killing During Operation Protective Edge in Gaza”

 – all published this year.