Nadia Latif

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2016/2017
discipline Social Anthropology
Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Georgia State University

Research project

'The Roof is Falling on our Heads': Palestinian Camp Refugee Narrations of Home and Homelessness


Over the last decade, Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon have been portrayed in policy and media discourses as breeding grounds of fanaticism and as refuges for Muslim militants from all over the world. Drawing on: (i) contemporary debates on religion and secularism; (ii) historical approaches to the constructions of sectarian identities in the modern Levant; and (iii) recent ethnographies exploring the role of Islam as a discursive tradition in contemporary articulations of national and trans-national identity and community, the proposed book project will examine the ways in which the current conflicts in the Middle East are shaping narrations of Palestinian identity in the refugee camps of Lebanon.


During field-research conducted after the Arab Spring and the beginning of the wars in Syria and Iraq, Palestinian inhabitants of Bourj al-Barajneh refugee camp described inter-generational changes in terms of wa ‘ī (awareness, attention, carefulness, consciousness). Second and third generation refugees depicted the first generation as simple people who prayed and fasted but were ignorant of the correct way to perform these rituals, and the true meaning behind them. First generation refugees concurred in this representation. According to these narratives, over the decades, camp refugees have gained in wa ‘ī dīnī, which is why more refugees desire to acquire knowledge about Islam and learn how to practice it correctly.


While extant scholarship in English examining the relationships between the political, the economic, and the religious in Islamic modernities is theoretically sophisticated and ethnographically rich, it has not examined these questions in the context of a multi-generational refugee population with aspirations to a nation-state that have been thwarted with consistent violence. Hence, the proposed book project will bring together an exploration of issues that are usually examined separately from each another—the post-Oslo Palestinian refugee assertion of the legitimacy of their national claims in terms of the (human) right of all refugees to return to their country of origin alongside current Palestinian refugee attempts to articulate a new wa ‘ī qaumī (national consciousness) grounded in a reformulated wa ‘ī dīnī that is presented by many refugees as the only way to resist embroilment in a set of conflicts that are simultaneously local, national, regional, and global.




Nadia Latif is Assistant Professor in the Middle East Studies Center, Department of Religious Studies, at Georgia State University. She holds a Ph.D in Anthropology from Columbia University. Her scholarly activity is in the areas of nationalism, refugees, conceptual histories of human rights and humanitarianism, gender, sexuality and representations of violence, as well as ethics and methods of ethnography. She has consulted pro bono for international and local NGOs and served as a scholarly expert for the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and for asylum cases in the United States.


Selected publications


''It Was Better During the War': Narratives of Everyday Violence in a Palestinian Refugee Camp', Feminist Review, vol. 101, 2012, pp. 24-40. 


'Belonging and Un-Belonging: Home in Bourj al-Barajneh Refugee Camp', in S. Kanafani et al. (eds), Anywhere But Now: Landscapes of Belonging in the Eastern Mediterranean, Heinrich Böll Stiftung Middle East, Beirut, pp. 25-36.


'Fellahin, fidaʾyīn, lājaʾyīn: Palestinian Camp Refugees in Lebanon as Autochthons', Arab Studies Journal, vol. 19, no. 1, 2011, pp. 46-77. 


'Space, Power and Identity in a Palestinian Refugee Camp', Asylon(s) [online journal], vol. 5, Septembre 2008. 


'Making Refugees', The New Centennial Review, vol. 8, no. 2, 2008, pp. 253-272.



junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Anthropology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Political Science
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW)
discipline Psychology