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Precariousness, precarity and family : notes from Palestine.

Harker, C. (2012) 'Precariousness, precarity and family : notes from Palestine.', Environment and planning A., 44 (4). 849 -865.


Geographical studies that 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 colonization 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’s work 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 that 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.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Family, Precariousness, Precarity, Palestinians, Colonialism, Politics, Ethics, Resistance, Getting by
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Record Created:25 Oct 2011 12:05
Last Modified:05 May 2013 00:30

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