Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

JORDAN: Nationalist Voices in Jordan, the Street and the State

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

JORDAN: Nationalist Voices in Jordan, the Street and the State

Article excerpt

Nationalist Voices in Jordan, The Street and the State, by Betty S. Anderson. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2005. x + 205 pages. Notes to p. 243. Bibl. to p. 269. Index to p. 288. $25 paper.

"Can Jordan exist without the Hashimites?" "Was Transjordan a sort of territorial entity prior to the arrival of Emir 'Abdullah?" "How did the Hashimites manage to stay in power?" These are some of the questions asked by students of Jordanian history in the recent decades. Betty Anderson asks the same questions, yet proposes a new direction where to look for the answers. Whereas most scholars have concentrated mainly on the elite, as has the formal Hashimite narrative, Anderson's thoroughly researched and well-written study focuses on "the street." She endeavors to rewrite the history of what she calls the Jordanian National Movement (JNM), the opposition (mainly Left-wing) parties that enjoyed vast public support, challenged the Hashimite regime in the 1950s, and was eventually destroyed by it.

According to Anderson, the story of the JNM is the personal story of the people, both Jordanians and Palestinians, who led this movement and participated in its activities throughout the 1950s. Indeed, the respective individual roles of 'Abdullah Rimawi, Sulayman al-Nabulsi, Ya'qub Ziyadin, Subhi Abu-Ghunaymah, and other figures from the Ba'ath, Communist, and National Socialist parties and of the Arab Nationalists' movement are well represented in this book. The interviews with them or with members of their families and their memoirs constitute a most valuable contribution to this study.

The first chapters concentrate on the period from the 1920s-1940s. One may call them "the making of political activists." Here Anderson analyzes the various factors that inspired the indigenous youths and influenced the crystallization of their Weltansicht and their national identity -both Arab and local (i.e., Jordanian and Palestinian) - and the tension between these identities. She describes the importance of educational institutions as hotbeds in which students were exposed to nationalistic, anti-British and anti-Hashimite ideas. The media also contributed to the political socialization of the future leaders of the JNM and to the emergence of active opposition to 'Abdullah from the 1920s. …

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