In search of dignity: Political economy and nationalism among Palestinian camp dwellers in Amman

Luigi Achilli


This article aims to problematize the well-rehearsed argument that the rise of the neoliberal tide has submerged alternative values and moral codes. In al-Wihdat, a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, neoliberal understandings of prosperity do not fully encompass vernacular notions of prosperity. Palestinian refugees value well-being not only on the basis of income but also in terms of the ethical and political qualities often entailed in “being poor.” However, if neoliberal desires tarnish the moral environment by bringing excessive individualism and anomy, poverty, too, can be detrimental to refugees’ well-being. Rather than simply being an unconditioned source of dignity and a superior moral stance, refugees recognize poverty as being a condition fraught with deeply ambivalent images and feelings. Refugees navigate this inconsistency through the conscious cultivation of what I describe as “connectivity” for the realization of full dignity and, ultimately, the pursuit of happiness.


Palestinian refugees, neoliberalism, Jordan, morality, nationalism, political economy

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/701011