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Precariousness, precarity, and family: notes from Palestine


  • Christopher Harker


Geographical studies which have engaged the family have generally done so by critiquing the patriarchal, heternormative, family. However, this paper argues that families are enmeshed in a plurality of political and ethical spacings that exceed this singular focus—a claim advanced by reviewing recent studies of Palestinian families. These studies reveal ways in which Palestinian families have been constituted by colonialism and nationalism, and are also the means through which colonisation and violence have been resisted. I then put these studies into conversation with the recent work of Judith Butler to argue for the importance of studying families at the intersections of different spatial, political, and ethical practices and discourses. Butler argues for a social ontology of precariousness—the ways in which one’s life is dependent on the lives of others—and a concomitant ethics of precarity, a means to challenge the ways in which certain subjects and populations are put at greater risk of death and suffering than others. I employ studies of Palestinian family spaces to read Butler’s arguments spatially. A spatially attentive reading of Butler’s ideas helps in turn to conceptualise the different ways in which families do political and ethical work. In particular, I focus on family spatial practices which reduce or alleviate heightened exposure to violence—some of which can be understood as a source of ethical responsiveness. This leads to a call for more geographically, politically, and ethically nuanced approaches to apprehending family spaces. Keywords: family, precariousness, precarity, Palestinians, colonialism, politics, ethics, resistance, getting by

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher Harker, 2012. "Precariousness, precarity, and family: notes from Palestine," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 44(4), pages 849-865, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:44:y:2012:i:4:p:849-865

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nijkamp, P. & Spronk, J., 1978. "Interactive multiple goal programming," Serie Research Memoranda 0003, VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Econometrics.
    2. Blommestein, H.J. & Nijkamp, P., 1981. "Soft spatial econometric causality models," Serie Research Memoranda 0020, VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Econometrics.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:48:y:1954:i:03:p:787-792_00 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Christopher Harker, 2014. "The Only Way Is Up? Ordinary Topologies of Ramallah," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(1), pages 318-335, January.

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