Neoliberal Visions: Exploring Gendered Adverts and Identities in the Palestinian West Bank

in collaboration with Birzeit University 

LSE PI: Dr Polly Withers  
Co-PI: Dr Rema Hammami  
Duration: August 2019 – April 2021

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A billboard in Ramallah, West Bank, 2017. Photo: Polly Withers. 

Walking through Ramallah, it is hard not to notice the commercial advertising billboards, TV screens, and posters that line the city’s streets. They frequently feature bright glossy images of young nuclear families – always a man and a woman, often with light skin – gazing longingly at ‘dream’ homes. These materials document how capital and aspiration are increasingly enfolded into everyday space in post-Oslo Palestine. They particularly show how neoliberal ‘reforms’ have transformed Palestine’s political economy over (at least) the past thirty years. Indeed, Ramallah today embodies the complexities wrought by the Oslo process more than any other space in Palestine: its inhabitants paradoxically live under a colonial present shaped by neoliberal capitalism.

While recent works consider how such shifts reformulate the political economy of occupied Palestine, and reroute the struggle for national liberation, rarely are the visual cultures that mark, embody, and communicate such political and economic changes centralised as sites of meaning-making.Even less forthcoming is work that explores how such pictorial representations cultivate shifts in gender and sexuality norms.

This project thus offers a different interpretation of the West Bank’s neoliberal order that moves beyond these traditional theoretical straightjackets. Using visual and qualitative methods, it foregrounds both the production and consumption of gendered advertisements as a way to explore how neoliberal culture constructs gendered subjectivity. It broadly asks how transforming forms of political economy, social relations, and cultural practices relate to changing modes of gender and sexualities, identities, desires, and emotions in contemporary Palestine.

This project forms part of the Academic Collaboration with Arab Universities Programme, funded by the Emirates Foundation.


Research Team

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Dr Polly Withers | Principal Investigator 

Polly is a Research Officer at the Middle East Centre, and a Visiting Fellow and Guest Lecturer at the Department of Media and Communications.

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Dr Rema Hammami | Co-Principal Investigator

Rema is Associate Professor of anthropology at the Institute of Women's Studies, Birzeit University. 

 

 
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