Researchers find alternatives to neoliberal development models in Palestine

Birzeit University researchers have been key contributors to a special issue of The Austrian Journal of Development Studies on “Food Sovereignty and Alternative Development in Palestine.”  The special issue, edited by Helmut Krieger, contributes to current debates on alternative development and a “resistance economy” by discussing the significance that agricultural cooperatives have in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Coordinator and Researcher at the Center for Development Studies at Birzeit University Ayman Rezeqallah, along with sociology professor Eileen Kuttab, published their papers in the issue, aiming to contribute to a better understanding of the multiple development crises in Palestine, and analyze cooperatives’ experiences and strategies from academic as well as activist perspectives.

In his paper “Conceptual and Methodological Approaches to Reading the Realm of Cooperatives in Occupied Palestine,” Rezeqallah raises questions and criticism about the impact of development on local populations, especially Palestinians who live under global colonial conditions. Focusing on the role of cooperatives in Occupied Palestine, he poses questions about whether Palestinians should surrender to the reality or attempt to challenge it, through a methodological conceptual approach within a critical reading of the experience of cooperatives in colonial contexts.

Kuttab presented in her paper “Alternative Development: A Response to Neo-Liberal De-Development from a Gender Perspective”, a critical reflection on, and a contextualization of, the Palestinian “de-development” process over the last 50 years of Israeli settler-colonial Occupation. She highlighted the Palestinian Authority’s neo-liberal economic practice of structural adjustment post-Oslo that resulted in the weakening of the resistance economy and community development initiatives, while blocking any opportunity for steadfastness and self-reliance. The paper presents local community responses from a historical and gender perspective. Kuttab re-examined and re-visited ‘alternative development’ as a concept and paradigm through a case study of the women's cooperative ‘Our Production is Our Pride’, which has endorsed principles of resistance, steadfastness, independence and liberation.

The Austrian Journal of Development Studies, published by the Mattersburgian Association for Development Issues at Austrian Universities, is an organization that promotes the study of development issues as part of the research and curriculum of Austrian universities.