From the Editors
[Editors’ Note: This is the first in a series of “Essential Readings,” in which we ask contributors to choose a list of must-read books, articles, and new media resources on a variety of topics. These are not meant to be comprehensive lists, but rather starting points for readers who want to read more about particular topics. Ziad Abu-Rish, a Co-Editor of Jadaliyya, provides a list of readings focusing on state building and regime security in Jordan. Some of Abu-Rish’s own writing on Jordan can be found here and here.]
Two themes have dominated historical and contemporary accounts of state building in Jordan. The first is the idea that Jordan is an "artificial" state, with little grounding in what allegedly makes other states "real." The second is the suggestion that politics in Jordan are characterized less by political activism or popular mobilization, and more by either brute monarchical violence or blind allegiance to the monarchy.
The readings included in this list offer important challenges to these portrayals. On the one hand, they illustrate the internalization of the Jordanian nation-state as a form of political sociability. Put differently, the success of the Hashemite regime in maintaining its rule, as well as the nature of various reformist and anti-regime mobilizations, had little to do with an alleged "identity-state misfit" and instead reflect the successful reification of a Jordanian identity, some mechanisms of which are detailed in these readings.
On the other hand, these readings also highlight the centrality of regime-opposition dynamics in the construction of various political and economic institutional arrangements in Jordan. Such dynamics were not exclusively defined by authoritarian violence, but also included repertoires of contentious politics, the creation and incorporation of various social bases as a strategy of regime security, and the appropriation and co-optation of oppositional symbols, personalities, and policies.
Relative to other Levantine Arab states, Jordan has received little attention from scholars. In some ways, this has made the selection of five essential readings easier, as there is less to choose from. But in other ways, it makes the task difficult, given that there aren't that many more works that would count as essential and their exclusion from the list thus seems arbitrary. Of particular note in this case is Pete Moore's Doing Business in the Middle East: Politics and Economic Crisis in Jordan and Kuwait. However, due to the comparative nature of the work and the reading list's emphasis specifically on Jordan, its exclusion was difficult yet unavoidable.
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