Nell Gabiam

Associate Professor – Sociocultural Anthropologist

Research Interests

Most of my ethnographic research focused on Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, more specifically, on the politics of humanitarian and development assistance in Palestinian refugee camps. A significant part of my work looks at the built environment of Palestinian refugee camps by analyzing the tensions surrounding urbanization and urban planning in these camps. More recently, I conducted fieldwork among Palestinians in France as part of a collaborative project on statelessness with faculty at the University of Oxford’s Refugee Studies Center.


My latest research project examines the effects of the war in Syria on the country’s Palestinian refugee population. A major part of this project entailed interviews with Palestinians displaced by the war in Syria and led me to travel to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, France, and Sweden.


  • 2016: “Humanitarianism, Development, and Security in the 21st Century: Lessons from the Syrian Refugee Crisis” Roundtable special issue on “Problematics of Humanitarianism and Human Rights.” International Journal of Middle East Studies.
  • 2015: “Citizenship and Development: Palestinians in France and the Multiple Meanings of Statelessness.” Special Issue: “Population and Development.” Jennifer Johnson-Hanks and Daniel Smith, eds. Studies in Comparative International Development.
  • 2012: “When ‘Humanitarianism’ Becomes ‘Development’: The Politics of International Aid in Syria’s Palestinian Refugee Camps.” American Anthropologist 114(1):95–107.
  • 2014: “Implementing the Neirab Rehabilitation Project: UNRWA’s Approach to Development in Syria’s Palestinian Refugee Camps.” In: From Relief and Works to Human Development: UNRWA after Sixty Years. Sari Hanafi, Lex Takkenberg, and Leila Hilal, eds. New York: Routledge.


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