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Displacing Territory

Syrian and Palestinian Refugees in Jordan

Displacing Territory explores the core concepts of territory and belonging—and humanizes refugees in the process.
Based on fieldwork with Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Jordan, Displacing Territory explores how the lived realities of refugees are deeply affected by their imaginings of what constitutes territory and their sense of belonging to different places and territories. Karen Culcasi shows how these individual conceptualizations about territory don’t always fit the Western-centric division of the world into states and territories, thus revealing alternative or subordinated forms and scales of territory. She also argues that disproportionate attention to “refugee crises” in the Global North has diverted focus from other parts of the world that bear the responsibility of protecting the majority of the world’s refugees. By focusing on Jordan, a Global South state that hosts the world’s second-largest number of refugees per capita, this book provides insights to consider alternate ways to handle the situation of refugees elsewhere. In the process, Culcasi brings the reader into refugees’ diverse realities through their own words, inherently arguing against the tendency of many people in the Global North to see refugees as aberrant, burdensome, or threatening.


"A thoroughly researched, compellingly written, and moving analysis of the political geographies of Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Jordan. Taking the twin lenses of territory and belonging, it critically interrogates dominant theorizations of these ideas, providing political, historical, and ethnographic depth to the analysis. It is an important and politically urgent book."

Stuart Elden, University of Warwick

A masterful account of the impact of displacements in Jordan, Palestine, and Syria. Culcasi theorizes territory as shaped through a sense of geographic belonging at multiple scales outside and beyond the nation-state nexus. A must-read."


Reece Jones, author of "White Borders and Nobody Is Protected"

"Displacing Territory is a powerful and deeply sympathetic analysis of displaced Syrians’ and Palestinians’ attachment to their homeland, that territorial imaginary shaped and reshaped by history over the centuries. They all share the sense of physical displacement while carrying their imagined territory, that homeland, in their conscious understanding of their identity and belonging.”

Dawn Chatty, University of Oxford

Table of Contents

List of Figures
Chapter 1: Displacing the Study of Territory
Chapter 2: The International Refugee Regime, Durable Solutions, and Territory
Chapter 3: Territory and Displacement in Jordan
Chapter 4: Pre-imperial and Anti-imperial Territories
Chapter 5: Hybrid Territories
Chapter 6: The State-Territory Nexus
Chapter 7: Refugee Camp Territories

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