From Mandate Palestine to refugee camps in Jordan today, generations of Palestinians have been affected by the reach of the state into their everyday lives. Here Elise Young offers an analysis of the politics of state building in the Middle East, viewed through the lens of health. Young argues that gendered, raced and classed constructions of health, as evidenced in malaria eradication campaigns and the regularization of midwifery, are central to such state building processes. She draws on archival documents to uncover British medical administration and American involvement during the Mandate, and on in-depth oral histories she conducts with Palestinian women refugees in modern Jordan. Processes of modern state building in the region of Bilad al-Sham brought about significant transformations in definitions of health, development of health care systems, and medical practices. Young focuses on three aspects of these changes. The first is a gender analysis of the ways in which science and medicine in the twentieth century contributed to colonialist processes of state building in the region. In particular, she shows how British and American colonials shaped malaria control programmes that served to further their economic and political goals of controlling Palestine and Transjordan beginning in 1919. Second, Young details the specific consequences of nation building-of war, military occupation, displacement and expulsion, changing socio-economic-political conditions, and changing mores-on women's health in the region. Third, given the major changes introduced in health systems here between 1919 and 1990 she explores how women define health and how they interact with and influence systems of health care. Beginning with the professionalization of dayat (midwives) in the British Mandate period, Young traces the effects of this regularization on women's livelihoods, their access to health care, and increasing state control over health and reproduction. She goes on to examine conditions for Palestinian women in refugee camps in Jordan, beginning with the 1948 wars and ending with the Jordanian-Israeli Agreements of 1994. Through detailed interviews with women in these camps, she discusses dispersal, refugee status, the role of militarization and Jordanian-Palestinian politics, and health and human rights. She shows that for these women, health is a metaphor for homecoming, a poignant confirmation of the intersection of personal and political realities. In taking a broader view of these historical and political forces, Young argues that the struggle for control over definitions of health is a struggle for control of knowledge making and, ultimately, for political control. Making a powerful case for an alternative historiography of the region, 'Gender and Nation Building in the Middle East' will be invaluable for all those interested in Middle East history and politics, nationalism, gender, public health and refugees.
Gender and Nation Building in the Middle East
The Political Economy of Health from Mandate Palestine to Refugee Camps in Jordan