Document Type




Publication Date

Fall 2020


University of Illinois Press

Source Publication

Journal of Amerian Ethnic History

Source ISSN



This paper examines Palestinian women's marriage preferences and the ways they incorporate national/cultural elements into their self-initiated marriage process in order to mitigate the reactions of their families and local community in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Marriage decisions among Palestinians in diaspora are a complex affair defined by notions of nationalism, kin relations, and religion, with their inherent gendered aspects. These notions reveal an array of actions and choices that testify to the ways in which women build strategies to deal with their realities and increase their agency. Their access to higher education, careers, and residences in multi-cultural locations allow them to redefine gender roles and control their marriage choices. Intermarriage outside their ethnic and national groups, increase in marriage age, and marriage processes that are self-initiated yet devised and presented in the form of customary marriage patterns emerge as visible phenomena among second-generation Palestinian Muslims. The decreasing number of suitable potential spouses drives a considerable number of Palestinian American women to look outside their national and ethnic group for marriage partners, thereby prioritizing their universal, religious identity as Muslims over Palestinian ethnic identity. This study uses oral interviews and community observation to examine how Palestinian Muslim women maintained some symbolic customary practices and challenged others by conceptualizing, utilizing, and modifying their group cultural and religious values in order to expand the boundaries of their gender roles and increase their power in negotiating marriage choices.


Accepted version. Journal of American Ethnic History, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Fall 2020): 70-91. DOI. © University of Illinois Press. Used with permission.

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