Islam, Soap Operas, and Girls’ Access to Space in Balata Refugee Camp

  • David J. MarshallEmail author
Living reference work entry
Part of the Geographies of Children and Young People book series (GCYP, volume 4)


The lives and bodies of Palestinian young people are overrepresented, at once symbolizing righteous resistance and humanitarian suffering. Palestinian girls, perhaps especially, are subject to these complex and competing forms of representation, simultaneously representing cultural authenticity, religious piety, patriarchal oppression, and objects of “empowerment.” While images of girls, especially Arab Muslim girls, have become familiar to international audiences as symbols of oppression and objects of development, less familiar is how Arab or Muslim girls themselves understand and challenge these representations, articulating their own political demands and subjectivities in the process. Drawing upon research with Palestinian children in Balata Refugee Camp in the occupied West Bank, this chapter examines the ways in which Palestinian refugee girls creatively combine discourses of Palestinian nationalism, child psychology, human rights, and Islamic ethics, as derived from sources as varied as school textbooks and Arabic soap operas, in order to critique inequitable access to space and restrictions on mobility that girls face in the camp. Such articulations at once draw upon Western notions of children’s rights and gender equality while also challenging them through reference to the Palestinian nation struggle and Islamic ethics. In this way, Palestinian girls draw upon different cultural scripts not only to challenge the cultural and political restrictions placed on their mobility, but also to challenge the representation of Palestinian girls as marginalized victims. Refashioning their identities in this way demonstrates embodied as well as symbolic or narrative agency. By attending to these themes, this chapter examines how different discursive or cultural constructions of childhood shape the spaces of children and how young people in turn creatively shape their own identities and subjectivities through spatial practices that unfold within these spatial and institutional contexts.


Palestine Islam Religion Agency Mobility Gender Girlhood Honor/shame Affect 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Geography and DevelopmentUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyThe Palatine Centre, Durham UniversityDurhamUK

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