Dwelling Within Political Violence: Palestinian Women's Narratives of Home, Violence, and Well-Being
Methods:Five focus groups were conducted in 2008 with women in Palestine (N=32) recruited by staff of a Palestinian healthcare NGO as part of an IRB-approved collaborative study between the NGO and a US university. The groups were co-facilitated in Arabic; women were asked about experiences within, effects of, and responses to political violence. Translation followed a multi-step process; two translations were provided and discrepancies discussed and collaboratively resolved. Transcripts were analyzed thematically. Initial coding was done line by line, and a coding matrix was constructed. Mind-mapping software was used to create “thematic network” displays to explore and refine codes and to build broad thematic categories. To track analytic decisions, provide a reflexive process, and explore counterfactuals, procedures included memo writing and peer auditing with US university-based qualitative researchers.
Results: Threats to the privacy, control, and constancy of family homes – key dimensions of ontological security – emerged as central themes in women’s narratives. Chronic experiences of surveillance, invasions (including disruption and control of inhabitants and material objects), and actual or threatened demolitions of women’s intimate home environments provoked powerful feelings of humiliation, fear, grief, and anxiety. A source of particular distress for women who were mothers was feeling unable to physically or emotionally protect their children during assaults on the home. Yet a counter-theme also emerged, illuminating the ways in which women resiliently find ways to support and maintain their families and homes despite massive disruptions.
Conclusions and Implications: Study findings underscore the salience of place violations in women’s experiences of political violence, and the important role of intimate environments in ontological security and consequent well-being among individuals and families. This study thus adds a new dimension to research on political violence and women's health. Although more research is needed to fully understand the implications of women’s “psycho-geographical” experiences in the context of chronic war and conflict, findings illustrate the importance of attention to violations of place and home in practice with women experiencing political violence.