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Year: 2010 Type: Article Language: English

There are rising numbers of single women across the Arab world. While this is usually connected with delayed marriage, Palestine shows a unique pattern of early but not universal marriage. This article looks beneath the statistics to investigate the stories behind this trend. How do young unmarried women negotiate boundaries and understand and enact choice in the context of a society experiencing prolonged insecure and warlike conditions, political crisis and social fragmentation and where the high number of unmarried women can be an increasing locus of moral panic? In conducting focus groups with two generations of women, my research looks at the prevailing importance of education, civil society and security in negotiating space within women's lives and uncovers a long tradition of unmarried women leading full and significant lives which needs to be recovered from the past.