Blog Post

How Palestinian refugees use “digital, invisible networks” to meet community needs - Nadya Hajj on refugee coping strategies

March 2022

Nadya Hajj of Wellesley College joined the Middle East Initiative’s Tarek Masoud on March 2, 2022 to talk about her most recent book, Networked Refugees: Palestinian Reciprocity and Remittances in the Digital Age. Hajj is Whitehead Associate Professor of Critical Thought and Co-Director of the Peace and Justice Studies Program at Wellesley College. 

Hajj detailed the personal connection to her research: her family fled from the village of Samoie in Northern Palestine during the 1948 Nakba (Arabic for “Catastrophe”). Her heritage inspired her work on Palestinian refugees and gave her access to spaces closed to other scholars.  

Hajj’s book asks whether “digital, invisible networks” enabled by new social media technologies are “working to connect refugees and promote cooperative behavior that actually translates to real-world results.” In order to answer this question, Hajj spent years observing and analyzing how Palestinian refugees in Lebanon’s refugee camps use social media to cope with the “protection gap,” or as Hajj explained, the “chasm between services and protections promised to refugees in the Geneva Convention and what's actually provided to them.” 

She ultimately concluded that social media networks are doing just that—facilitating reciprocal remittance flows over geographic and generational boundaries, enforcing community norms across diverse diasporic contexts, and maintaining a sense of community identity and cohesion. Most significant according to Hajj is that, while “a lot of the literature on remittance flows specifically say that remittances decay or dwindle” with time, Palestinian remittances have remained steady and have increased with the proliferation of social media. 

These findings contrast with our usual notions of social media, where, Professor Tarek Masoud noted, “We encounter some of the worst behaviors of human beings.” Hajj noted, however, that social media itself should not be credited with solving refugee challenges. We should instead focus on the creative ways Palestinian refugees these technologies. Hajj also said that social media reciprocity networks “work best when they're patterned on pre-crisis networks” based on clan and village identities which, in the Palestinian case, remain strong. 

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: How Palestinian refugees use “digital, invisible networks” to meet community needs - Nadya Hajj on refugee coping strategies.” MEI Minute, March 2022,