chapter  12
21 Pages

The urban planning strategy in Al-Hussein Palestinian refugee camp in Amman: heterogeneous practices, homogeneous landscape


This chapter deals with the issue of refugee camps improvement and governance. It focuses on the al-Hussein Palestinian refugee camp in Amman.2 It aims at assessing the different improvement practices and planning strategy which have taken place in the camp over the past decades. Furthermore, it considers this strategy in relation with broader urban development trends (particularly of the camp surroundings), as the camp holds a central location in the urban environment. Officially, two entities operate in the camp, the Jordanian Department of Palestinian Affairs (DPA) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). While the former is in charge of governing the camp, the tasks of the latter focus on services provision. However, this chapter considers the work not only of these actors, even if they are the central part of the analysis, but includes other actors involved in the process of improvement, such as Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDC), Greater Amman Municipality (GAM), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and so on. It analyses as well different types of actions, whether one-off initiatives or recurrent interventions, if they were specific to the camp or implemented city wide, which aspects they cover (physical infrastructure, housing, services, urban layout, etc.) and on which scale (small projects or broader programmes of development). This chapter argues that when it comes to urban improvement, even if the DPA is officially the sole actor in charge of governing the camp, UNRWA and other institutions also contribute, while more informally, to the ‘governmentality’ of the camp-space (see Oesch 2012). It therefore questions governance issues and interactions among the different actors involved in the process of improvement. Finally, it also considers the timing of actions, comparing them with broader context-related issues such as regional developments and events. In others words, it is the urban planning and development process of the

refugee camp that motivates this chapter. Which form does it take? By whom is it implemented? What happens when there are two main agencies

(UNRWA and DPA) which operate in the camp and which are functioning according to different ‘rationalities of government’ in the Foucauldian sense, that is different ways of thinking and acting, according to different procedures, objectives, and so on. How do these two rationalities, one that can be qualified as ‘state-centred’ (DPA) and another one that can be qualified as ‘transnational’ (UNRWA), interact when related to the same issue (urban development). And finally, to what extent do they merge or hybridize into a strategy or ‘apparatus’ of urban planning that expresses on its own a particular form of governmentality proper to the camp (see, e.g., Bigo 2007; Rose et al. 2006).3