Protesting Jordan
Geographies of Power and Dissent
Jillian Schwedler


Contents and Abstracts
1The Shifting Political Stakes of Protest
chapter abstract

Chapter 1 provides an overview and introduces three key theoretical arguments. First, state-making and state-maintaining are ongoing projects, and protests are not periodic disruptions but central to state-making. Second, protests shape the built environment and vice versa. Third, a close look at protests shows how local and regional factors coproduce the state at the national level.

2Transforming Transjordan
chapter abstract

Chapter 2 examines protest in the broader Transjordanian area before and during the British-led Hashemite colonial project. It adopts a scale and time frame that is sweepingly historical but zoomed out from the boundaries of modern-day Jordan in order to reveal regional patterns and contests over political authority for a period of many decades. Ottoman, British, and Hashemite efforts to impose authority were met not with sporadic rebellions but with sustained resistance and proactive efforts to shape those imperial and colonial projects. The analysis examines changes in spatial imaginaries and geographies of power and dissent through the establishment of the independent state of Jordan in 1946.

3Becoming Amman: From Periphery to Center
chapter abstract

Chapter 3 brings the scale of analysis down to the level of the city but maintains a long-term time frame to examine patterns of urban development and political resistance. It examines place-making and the transformation of Amman from a seasonally inhabited town in the late nineteenth century to its establishment as the Hashemite capital in 1928. That transformation led to a restructuring of the political geography of the Transjordanian area. Urban planning documents throughout the period convey the colonial spatial imaginaries of a planned and ordered capital, only portions of which were realized. The chapter examines Amman's rapid transformation through the Black September conflict of 1970–71. I show how, as the growing capital became the new state's economic center, a new economic geography relegated the existing East Bank towns to the periphery.

4Jordanization, the Neoliberal State, and the Retreat and Return of Protest
chapter abstract

Chapter 4 returns to the national scale to examine techniques of Hashemite state-maintaining in the wake of Black September. It explores the massive Habbit Nisan protests of 1989 through a spatial lens, showing how those protests marked a major juncture in Jordanian politics and introduced new spatial patterns of protest. Protests in the outlying East Bank governorates, which put some of the greatest pressure on the Hashemite regime, revived elements of early twentieth-century revolts, notably blocking roads and destroying infrastructure. In Amman, by comparison, the rapidly changing built environment reshaped the city's own geography of protests, with new spaces developing highly localized protest routines.

5An Ethnography of Place and the Politics of Routine Protests
chapter abstract

Chapter 5 brings the scale down to the micro level, examining protests on a street adjacent to the Kaluti Mosque in West Amman. There, protests against the normalization of Jordan's relations with Israel became so routine in the 2000s that they hardly seemed contentious at all. An ethnography of place examines the microdynamics and temporality of those protests over the course of several hours, including how they alter the political atmosphere of the neighborhood. The spatial dynamics of routine protest and policing practices reveal that permitted protests can work to shore up the regime's power even as protesters challenge government policies and maintain existing spaces for protest.

6Jordan in the Time of the Arab Uprisings
chapter abstract

Chapter 6 returns to a national level but with the timing and spread of the regional uprisings considered in tandem with protests in Jordan. It examines the gradual escalation of protests, beginning with labor protests in 2006 through the violent repression of anti-austerity protesters in fall 2012. The uprising period saw shifts in protest repertoires as well as newly mobilized segments of the East Bank communities, forces that the regime scrambled to divide and weaken. It also examines the rise of the radical nativist movement that indexes Hashemites as outsiders, a serious problem for a regime that relies on support from East Bank communities. The escalating rhetoric of the period set the stage for increased public criticisms of the regime.

7The Techniques and Evolving Spatial Dynamics of Protest and Repression
chapter abstract

Chapter 7 examines the resurgence of protest in the mid-2010s, with attention to the most active sectors of protest as well as the evolving spaces and repertoires for protest—including virtual spaces. It explores how proximity to Amman enabled deeper connections between new groups of activists compared with activists residing farther south. It also shows how a new tactic for East Bank unemployment protesters—marching on foot to the capital to demand jobs outside the Royal Court—entailed significant spatial and temporal innovations.

8Protest and Order in Militarized Spaces
chapter abstract

Chapter 8 returns to the scale of the city to show how securitization, neoliberal development, and foreign investment affected changes to the urban built environment. Along with a building boom, Amman enjoys upgraded infrastructure that is militarized to provide the kind of "normal"-time stability—or at least the appearance of it—the regime needs to reproduce its authority as well as secure foreign investment. These diverse public and private projects have altered the possibilities for political protests, some intentionally and others unintentionally, by creating blockages, reducing the visibility of certain established places of protest, and rendering other spaces more exposed and visible for surveillance. An original typology examines the spatial techniques used by the state to weaken the potential impact of protests by creating material obstacles to protest in the built environment.

9Protesting Global Aspirations
chapter abstract

Chapter 9 connects Jordan's geographies of power and dissent to regional and global geographies of neoliberal investment, military alliances, and policing and securitization networks. King Abdullah II's vision for Jordan sees Hashemites leading the kingdom from its noble Bedouin, Islamic, and Biblical past into a modern and cosmopolitan future. But Hashemite authority is maintained not only with the support of East Bank communities but also via financial and military assistance from external states and institutions. While the regime struggles to realize its regional and global aspirations, protests reveal large-scale opposition to neoliberalism. Protests bring into view moral and material claims and reveal deep tensions over who is Jordanian and what Jordan is or should be, the stakes of which are the future of Hashemite political authority.