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Title: The paradox of Ramallah : an investigation into Palestine's political and national architecture and urban topography since 1995
Author: Jaber, Anwar
ISNI:       0000 0004 9353 9768
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Even with the signing of the Oslo Accords between Palestinians and Israelis (1993–1995), the Palestinian government (PNA) has been continually denied a presence in Jerusalem, the city that Palestinians perceive as their historical home and national capital. As such, the PNA has gradually concentrated itself in the city of Ramallah, considering it a temporary base whilst maintaining the hope and desire for an eventual return to Jerusalem as a capital. However, as the PNA began constructing its state institutions in Ramallah, the city became coined a ‘de-facto’ capital; an identification that deeply opposes the fundamental and deep-set desire for Jerusalem as the national Palestinian capital city. This dissertation investigates Ramallah as a ‘de-facto’ capital city in the context of the still unrealised Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its national capital. Departing from the general understanding that Ramallah is a ‘bubble’ detached from the Palestinian national struggle, this dissertation investigates its emerging political and national architecture and urbanism through the lens of capital cities. It explores how decades of loss, defeat and struggle to establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its national capital are key factors in the transformation of Ramallah. Building on the role of architecture in capital cities during state-building processes, the research begins by exploring Palestinian attempts to establish a government base in Jerusalem after Oslo Accords. It then spatially investigates the built political and national topography in Ramallah, then focuses on the memorial sites of two national figures: the poet Mahmoud Darwish and the political leader, Yasser Arafat. Finally, the dissertation investigates the Presidential Headquarters of the Muqata’a in Ramallah. It examines its colonial history, destruction and reconstruction processes and expands the analysis in relation to the city and the Palestinian national struggle. This research employs various architectural research methods such as mapping, site observation and visual analysis, as well as archival research and field-based interviews. Its main contribution is that it offers a new reading of Ramallah through the interpretation of its new government buildings and urban layout as they relate to the concept of capital cities. Ultimately, the situation of Ramallah is a paradoxical one. Although the idea of Ramallah as a capital remains officially refused, and the consensus amongst Palestinians is that Jerusalem is the only place for a Palestinian capital, the extent and characteristics of government building in Ramallah indicate otherwise.
Supervisor: Pullan, Wendy Sponsor: Cambridge Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Palestine ; Ramallah ; Capital Cities ; State-building ; Muqata'a ; Palestinian Presidential Headquarters ; Yasser Arafat ; Mahmoud Darwish ; National Architecture ; Temporary Capital Cities ; Palestinian Studies ; Jerusalem ; Abu Dis Parliament ; Palestinian Legislative Council ; Al-Bireh ; Israeli Occupation ; Nation-state ; Urban Conflicts ; Reconstruction ; PNA institutions ; Palestinian National Architecture