Academic journal article Ethnologies

Urban Heritage and the Contention between Tradition, Avant-Garde, and Kitsch: Amman's Rising "Kitsch Syndromes" and Its Creeping Vernacularized Urban Landscapes

Academic journal article Ethnologies

Urban Heritage and the Contention between Tradition, Avant-Garde, and Kitsch: Amman's Rising "Kitsch Syndromes" and Its Creeping Vernacularized Urban Landscapes

Article excerpt

Cet article se penche sur l'emergence de certaines tendances a Amman. Il se concentre sur l'essor des repliques de styles architecturaux "historises" et/ou la re-invention des formes d'icones culturelles et patrimoniales dans des lieux qui ont ete l'objet de plans et de projets de regeneration urbaine et economique, tels que Rainbow Street et Faisal Plaza a Amman. Il presente plus precisement le patrimoine urbain d'Amman comme un entre-deux pratiques discursives menant a une realite urbaine qui n'a pas ete reconnue, appreciee, etudiee ou meme integree dans les definitions tant officielles que populaires de la Jordanie.

This article investigates the emergence of certain trends in Amman. It centres on the rise of replications of "historicized" architectural styles or/and the re-invention of the forms of cultural and heritage icons in places that have undergone urban and economic planning and regeneration schemes, projects such as Rainbow Street and Faisal Plaza in Amman. It focuses more specifically on presenting Amman's urban heritage as an in-between situation where discursive practices lead to an urban reality that has not been recognized, appreciated, properly studied or even incorporated in the formal and popular definitions of Jordan.

The fusion of culture and entertainment that is taking place today leads not only to a depravation of culture, but inevitably to an intellectualization of amusement. (Adorno and Horkheimer 2000)


This article investigates the rise of inferior eclectic replication of "historicized" architectural styles or/and the re-invention of forms of cultural and heritage icons (that I label as kitsch) in places that underwent or are undergoing urban and economic regeneration schemes and projects such as in Rainbow Street, in Faisal Plaza, and in Prince Mohammad Street in Amman. As a form of cultural production, kitsch might be considered by some as inferior, derogatory, or tasteless, or simply as a bad imitation of past established traditions that is attempting to cater to popular demands.

In general, this research attempts to understand the various processes and practices of "patrimonialization" that underline the contemporary making of heritage-scapes and reveals processes that transform places into a heritage to be protected, exhibited, and appreciated not only by state agencies and international organizations, but also by various types of publics, actors, and stakeholders involved in the definition, production, invention, and consumption of heritage and its material culture (Daher and Maffi 2014: 2-3). In particular, the research attempts to understand processes and practices of heritage "invention" by a certain group of actors (e.g., new tenants and owners of certain cafes and restaurants in the historic part of the city of Amman that have undergone urban regeneration and conservation schemes and projects). Hobsbawm believes that "traditions" which appear or claim to be old are often quite recent in origin and sometimes invented: '"Invented tradition' is taken to mean a set of practices, normally governed by overtly or tacitly accepted rules and of a ritual or symbolic nature, which seek to inculcate certain values and norms of behavior by repetition, which automatically implies continuity with the past. In fact, where possible, they normally attempt to establish continuity with a suitable past" (1983: 1-2).

This research also investigates how local populations reappropriate, invent, and consume heritage in this part of the Arab world in a manner that sometimes produces a heritage-scape characterized by kitsch and linked to consumption and entertainment. This phenomenon is not restricted to Amman; Harb (2006:10) elaborated how in certain parts of southern Beirut (e.g., restaurant of Al-Saha), processes of heritage "invention" resulted in providing an "alternative experience to the visitor - an entertainment rooted in an eclectic melange of Lebanese, Arab, and Islamic 'tradition. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.