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Home and Homeland

Home and Homeland: The Dialogics of Tribal and National Identities in Jordan

Linda L. Layne
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Home and Homeland
    Book Description:

    In this provocative examination of collective identity in Jordan, Linda Layne challenges long-held Western assumptions that Arabs belong to easily recognizable corporate social groups. Who is a "true" Jordanian? Who is a "true" Bedouin? These questions, according to Layne, are examples of a kind of pigeonholing that has distorted the reality of Jordanian national politics. In developing an alternate approach, she shows that the fluid social identities of Jordan emerge from an ongoing dialogue among tribespeople, members of the intelligentsia, Hashemite rulers, and Western social scientists.

    Many commentators on social identity in the Middle East limit their studies to the village level, but Layne's goal is to discover how the identity-building processes of the locality and of the nation condition each other. She finds that the tribes create their own cultural "homes" through a dialogue with official nationalist rhetoric and Jordanian urbanites, while King Hussein, in turn, maintains the idea of the "homeland" in ways that are powerfully influenced by the tribespeople. The identities so formed resemble the shifting, irregular shapes of postmodernist land-scapes--but Hussein and the Jordanian people are also beginning to use a classically modernist linear narrative to describe themselves. Layne maintains, however, that even with this change Jordanian identities will remain resistant to all-or-nothing descriptions.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2098-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Table
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. A Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xvii-2)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Rethinking Collective Identity
    (pp. 3-37)

    In 1988 on a trip to Jordan as “scholar escort” for a study tour of American college professors, most of whom had little prior knowledge of the Middle East, I was struck by the frequency and uniformity of a particular genre of question, one that I consistently found difficult to answer adequately. These questions involved requests for me to identify and categorize people they were seeing into meaningful social groups, often on the basis of physical appearance alone. “Linda, tell me, that woman over there in the embroidered dress, is she Palestinian or Jordanian?” or “Tell me, who wears the...

  7. CHAPTER 2 A Generation of Change
    (pp. 38-51)

    Muḥammad Ḥussain al-Ṭālib (head of the household featured in chapter 3) was born to Mahra Bahadla and Ḥussain al-Ṭālib¹ in 1928, the same year Jordan’s first constitution was promulgated. Although the area known today as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has experienced many periods of prosperity and decline throughout its long history, there has probably never been such rapid change as that which has taken place in Muḥammad al-Ṭālib’s lifetime.

    The ʿarabsof Jordan have a patrilineal system of descent and so Muḥammad, like his father, Hussain ʿAli Fālah Sālim Ṭālib Sālah Ghanān, belongs to the Ghānānim tribe. The Ghānānim...

  8. CHAPTER 3 ʿArab Architectonics
    (pp. 52-78)

    The inclusion of the ʿabbādis’ tribal territory within the confines of a modern state has profoundly influenced the meaning and constitution of social space. Bocco provides valuable comparative material in his explorations of the changing meaning of tribal territory in the context of state intervention among the Khrayshah living southeast of Amman (1985) and the Huwetat of Southern Jordan (1989a:145). He notes, “At the beginning of the century, mobility, group cohesion, strategies of alliance and military force constituted the critical elements of control of a territory and of survivial for a tribe of pastoral nomads” (Bocco 1989a: translation mine). The...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Capitalism and the Politics of Domestic Space
    (pp. 79-95)

    The preceding description of the way that ʿAbbādis move with and within their homes introduced an important area in which nondiscursive knowledge orients ʿAbbādi identity-making practices. Although agreeing with Bourdieu on the importance of the experience of living in a home (and of observing adults’ behavior therein) for inculcating in the body “transposable schemes of perception, thought and action,” the case of the ʿAbbādi ʿarabschallenges Bourdieu’s assumptions about the special conservatism of such nondiscursive knowledge. Bourdieu asserts that

    principles em-bodied in this way are placed beyond the grasp of consciousness, and hence cannot be touched by voluntary deliberate transformation,...

  10. CHAPTER 5 National Representations: The Tribalism Debate
    (pp. 96-107)

    In the preceeding two chapters we focused on some of the fluid, dynamic identity-making practices of the ʿAbbād tribespeople and on the emergent, nonrepresentational nature of their homes. But as we noted in the introductory chapter, the meaning of tribal identity is also being constructed at the national level.¹ And much like the case explored by Virginia R. Dominguez, this public discourse is a “mechanism of collective objectification” and “the struggle between circles and sectors of the society evident in that discouse—to crystallize certain objectifications and do away with others—lies at the heart of the assumption of peoplehood”...

  11. CHAPTER 6 The Election of Identity
    (pp. 108-127)

    In March 1984, by-elections were held in Jordan to fill vacant seats in the lower house of Parliament.¹ These elections drew wide participation. In fact, the level of activity and discussion that the elections generated across the country in both public and private venues leading up to and following the election was striking given the small number of seats being contested (eight out of sixty). Clearly, these elections concerned more than a few seats in the legislature.² They became a forum for reexamining the role of tribal political structures in the context of a democratic representational system and a testing...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Constructing Culture and Tradition in the Valley
    (pp. 128-142)

    Although the tribalism debate and the other national representations discussed in chapter 5 were not primarily directed at Jordanian tribespeople, the tribesmen and women of the Jordan Valley are aware of them and are constructing their own self-images in a dialogic relationship with these objectifications of their culture.¹ In response to the denigration of tribal culture by its critics and the appropriation of tribal culture by the state as a key element of Jordan’s national heritage, Jordanian tribespeople are reconceiving and reevaluating what being a tribesperson means. In so doing, they are utilizing some of the same discursive practices as...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Monarchal Posture
    (pp. 143-160)

    Throughout this book I have explored the dialogic construction of tribal and national identities in Jordan. In this final chapter I focus on several structural similarities in the way that collective identity is conceived and constituted at the local and national level and argue that these similarities derive from similar approaches to space and time. In the following discussion I tack back and forth between local and national contexts, drawing analogies between practices I observed among tribespeople in the Jordan Valley and those of Jordan’s King and compare these two Jordanian examples with Western models of nationalism. I want not...

  14. References
    (pp. 161-178)
  15. Index
    (pp. 179-188)