Hybrid sovereignty and the state of exception in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon

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This article traces a genealogy of sovereignty and exception in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon that highlights their mutual connections and contaminations with the mechanisms of Lebanese state sovereignty from 1948 onwards. Drawing together two theoretical approaches emerging from the work of Giorgio Agamben and recent political geographical work on sovereignty, we explore the refugee camps as spaces of exception characterized by hybrid sovereignties. Drawing on original fieldwork, we trace the evolution of the relationship of exception and its mutual links with the production of hybridity in Lebanon’s sovereignty from 1948 until today, focusing particularly on the key period from 1968 to 1982 when Palestinian militancy led to a formal recognition of Palestinian autonomy in the camps. Rather than simply undermining Lebanon’s sovereignty, the camps’ fragmented security and territoriality have instead reshaped Lebanon’s state sovereignty in complex ways, and forged hybrid spaces for refugee political agency to emerge.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)949-963
JournalAnnals of the American Association of Geographers
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2017


  • Hybrid sovereignty, Lebanon, Palestinian refugees, Refugee camps, State of exception