Enclosures from Below: The Mushaa' in Contemporary Palestine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article traces the declining fortunes of the mushaa', a once-prominent Levantine culture of common land. Palestinians managed to resist attempts by the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate to break up the mushaa'. Under Israeli colonization, the remaining commons are now subject to another type of appropriation: individual Palestinian contractors seize hold of mushaa' land and build on it. This article introduces the concept of "enclosures from below", whilst looking at the dynamics of seizure of the commons by Palestinian refugees, who once were peasants practising mushaa' on their lands and are now landless, some having become expert contractors. I show that the contractors consider their actions to be a form of resistance against the settler colonial project, manifested in the advancing of the Wall and settlement expansion. This is described through a case study of the Shu'faat area in Jerusalem. Changing uses of mushaa' land reflect wider tendencies in the Palestinian national project that has become increasingly individualized.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Anthropology


  • British Mandate, Contractors, Enclosures from below, Jerusalem, Mushaa', Shu'faat refugee camp
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1103-1124
Issue number5
Early online date2017 Mar 21
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Nov
Publication categoryResearch