Abstract: Resisting Democide, Encountering Dismemberment: Fathering in Occupied East Jerusalem (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Resisting Democide, Encountering Dismemberment: Fathering in Occupied East Jerusalem

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Abeer Otman, PhD candidate, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Deir Al Assad, Israel
Background and Purpose: The Israeli colonial machinery of oppression revokes boundaries and penetrates intimate spaces and times of Palestinian families in a mundane manner (Gokani, Bogossian & Akessona 2015; Shalhoub-Kevorkian 2015; Peteet 1994). In turn, Israeli oppression disturbs parental roles and challenges the role of the father-figure and modalities of fathering (Gokani, Bogossian & Akessona 2015; Qouta, Punamäki and El Sarraj 2008; Nguyen-Gillham, Giacaman, Naser & Boyce 2008). Specifically, within the prime role of protection (Otman 2020).

Scholars argue that within Indigenous communities, the role of the father is to provide, build, and protect the home (Ramphele & Richter 2006; Hunter 2006; Manahan and Ball 2007). Similarly, in the Arab culture, fathers are expected to be “Rab Al Beit”, which translates to, "God of the home". However, this expectation becomes diminished in the context of unending violence, constant insecurity and continuous uprootedness. The father’s role then becomes an act of perseverance against fear and colonial oppression with steadfast strength and dedication to the protection of the family (Otman 2020).

Shalhoub-Kevorkian (2019) argues that Israel's domicidal ideology of colonial power specifically intends to strip Palestinians of their homes, families and homeland, while simultaneously robbing Palestinian parents the experience of fostering intimate familial ties, and most importantly, the opportunity to parent with dignity. This study aims to uncover the avenues in which Palestinian fathers resist and cope with democide, the deliberate dispossession of their fatherhood roles, and the perpetual dehumanizing cycle of structured colonial domopolitics.

Methods: This study is a qualitative study which utilized 35 semi-structured interviews along with data analysis of over a hundred of fathers’ social media posts. Participants of the study were all Palestinian fathers. The data gathered was analyzed using a bottom-up, feminist, and decolonial perspective and building on grounded theory in order to reveal the complexities, meanings, and concerns of Palestinian fathers.

Results: Fathers' voices reveal how Israeli regime and its bureaucracies operate to exclude fathers as the main protectors of their children, homes, and families. Father explain that it is very difficult for fathers to maintain their children's safety and wellbeing while living within a colonial oppressive structure, experiencing constant fear and anxiety for their families' safety through their everyday lives. However, fathers show that although they live in constant and unpredictable violence, Palestinian fathers insist on offering innovative modes of fathering that subvert the structural stripping of their powers. Fathers voices indicate that they create new spaces, new languages, and new powers of fatherhood and fathering.

Conclusions and Implications: This study challenges hegemonic fatherhood discourse and reveals that in a colonial context, fatherhood is established in different ways. The paper concludes by highlighting the crucial role of social workers of being attentive to fathers’ voices while paying attention to their constant struggle, plurality of modes, resistance and survival; and to join the struggle against fathers’ dispossession and domopolitics, while simultaneously advocating, learning from, and engaging with them.