Advocating “Dignity” and “Return” for Lebanon’s Palestinians: Imagining a Diasporic Project

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Refugee Survey Quarterly
Vol. 33, Nr. 3, S. 118-138

The 2010 reform of the legal regime regulating Palestinians’ access to the labour market in Lebanon ignited a heated debate among Lebanese, Palestinians, and international political actors. This article analyses the advocacy initiatives preceding the reform to answer the following question: what signifiers of Palestinian-ness have Palestinian political entrepreneurs mobilised? In a nutshell, it shows how a group of non-governmental organizations working with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon re-shaped the references to “Return” and “Dignity” in order to create an intellectual environment favourable to their demands for legal reform. However, these two signifiers not only concern the issue of the work-related rights of Lebanon’s Palestinians, but they also envisage a specific form of emplacement of the Palestinian community in that country. From this perspective, they are the constitutive elements of a “diasporic project” of emplacement in which Palestinians collectively exist in an in-between (imagined) space situated somewhere between their host society and their homeland.