Nationalist Voices in Jordan: The Street and the State

Nationalist Voices in Jordan: The Street and the State

Nationalist Voices in Jordan: The Street and the State

Nationalist Voices in Jordan: The Street and the State


"By focusing on the [Jordanian National Movement] and putting it in its context, not as an aberration in Jordan's history, but as a logical result of a long and ongoing practice of political expression and activism on both banks of the Jordan, Anderson adds much theoretical sophistication to the scholarship on Jordan. - Arab Studies Journal "This book is a significant contribution to the understanding of Jordanian history.... Most scholars have focused on high politics in Jordan. This is thus an important addition to the emerging literature on the Kingdom's history at the 'non-palace' level." - Ellen Lust-Okar, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Yale University

According to conventional wisdom, the national identity of the Jordanian state was defined by the ruling Hashemite family, which has governed the country since the 1920s. But this view overlooks the significant role that the "Arab street"- in this case, ordinary Jordanians and Palestinians- played and continues to play in defining national identity in Jordan and the Fertile Crescent as a whole. Indeed, as this pathfinding study makes clear, "the street" no less than the state has been a major actor in the process of nation building in the Middle East during and after the colonial era. In this book, Betty Anderson examines the activities of the Jordanian National Movement (JNM), a collection of leftist political parties that worked to promote pan-Arab unity and oppose the continuation of a separate Jordanian state from the 1920s through the 1950s. Using primary sources including memoirs, interviews, poetry, textbooks, and newspapers, as well as archival records, she shows how the expansion of education, new jobs in the public and private sectors, changes in economic relationships, the establishment of national militaries, and the explosion of media outlets all converged to offer ordinary Jordanians and Palestinians (who were under the Jordanian government at the time) an alternative sense of national identity. Anderson convincingly demonstrates that key elements of the JNM's pan-Arab vision and goals influenced and were ultimately adopted by the Hashemite elite, even though the movement itself was politically defeated in 1957.


We have struggled and we have fought from the beginning, and on
behalf of a message, just as our fathers and grandfathers fought
beforehand, in defense of their message, the message of unity, the message
of freedom, the message of strength, the message of building, the message
of protecting our sacred things and our sacred land, and the message of
protecting the land of the Arabs for the unity of the Arabs.


King Husayn holds the “hearts of the people.”


The quotes above come from history textbooks published by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1959 and 1975, respectively. The theme of these quotes and of the textbooks as a whole is: The Hashemites are Jordan; Jordan is the Hashemite family. A sample sentence says, “The Arabs in Jordan welcomed Emir ʿAbdullah bin Husayn with a great fervor, and they gave to him the title of savior of Syria. In April 1921, the Emir established a government for his Emirate.” Subsequently, the subject of sentence after sentence is the reigning Hashemite king and the state he controls. The citizens of the country have no faces and no names. The British creators of the state are merely a force to be fought by the Hashemite kings.

His Majesty King ʿAbdullah continued until the end of the Second World
War to struggle to end the British Mandate in Jordan. In spring 1946, His . . .

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