The Palestinian town of Ramallah, possibly on the lowest rung of urban hierarchies in the region, is a peripheral town trying to become a city on the fringes of the Arab world. Its nascent new middle class partakes enthusiastically in the trans-Arab, urban, middle-class ethos elaborated in the centers of Arab modernity, the metropolitan cities. This new imagination, a hybrid construct crafted by the new urban middle classes in the age of globalization and the demise of the postindependence nationalist project, encompasses a new consciousness of self, family life, and family futures.
It is a mark of the power of the trans-Arab, middle-class ethos that it has penetrated into the farthest reaches of the Arab world, and in a turbulent landscape shattered by wars, displacement, and dispossession. I argue that the coalescence of the momentous political events at the local level (the Oslo accords and the process of societal “normalization”) with the general collapse of the nationalist project of the Arab nation-state and the relentless currents of globalization sweeping the Arab world constituted the fertile ground in which the emerging urban middle class began to incubate its new life agendas and the sensibilities and practices that give it expression. City life is becoming a possibility in Palestine, more than half a century after its urban modernity was aborted by war and occupation.