Documenting Transnational Migration: Jordanian Men Working and Studying in Europe, Asia and North America

By Stockton, Ronald R. | The Middle East Journal, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Documenting Transnational Migration: Jordanian Men Working and Studying in Europe, Asia and North America


Stockton, Ronald R., The Middle East Journal


Documenting Transnational Migration: Jordanian Men Working and Studying in Europe, Asia and North America, by Richard T. Antoun. New York and Oxford, UK: Berghahn Books, 2005. xii + 313. Bibl. to p. 320. Index to p. 325. $75.

Richard Antoun has spent four decades studying Kufr al-Mah, a Jordanian village that has sent its sons to 14 different countries. Remarkably, almost all returned. Antoun examined these movements to see what they tell about migration, transnationalism, identity, cultural persistence, and reaction to other cultures. He found a range of experiences, many different from what one might expect. He also found that conceptual categories need to be reassessed.

Antoun's method is to profile individuals who go away to private employment, government service in the Gulf, or university (130 in total, an aspect of migration he says is overlooked). Also overlooked is the fact that many fathers had migrated earlier, when they joined the Jordanian army to "reach foreign lands and cultures" (p. 35) and to consolidate their positions within the community, acquire leadership roles, or start a business. (The lad in your classroom may be following a family tradition.)

Some findings are surprising, for example, comparing Jordanians in the Gulf with those in Pakistan or the West. Jordanians share language and culture with the Gulf but were "encapsulated in residence, work, and leisure activities" and saw "surprisingly little of the indigenous inhabitants" (p. 68). In Pakistan, because they did not speak Urdu, they were isolated and restricted to campus life. The Pakistani family structure also made it difficult to meet local women. Still, village people revered them because they came from the "holy land" and would touch them to get a blessing (p. 165).

In the West, in spite of religious and cultural differences, they found it easier to meet local people. Greece was the most open society they encountered. Greek culture resembled Jordanian culture in group dating and socializing and strong family traditions. The students "acculturated rapidly, and assimilated to Greek society and culture" (p. 162). To ambitious Greeks, these Jordanians were rising young men with good values. Six of the nine married Greek women, four settling permanently in Greece. In Pakistan only one of 27 married a Pakistani. In Saudi Arabia the number was zero.

The four students who went to America faced "the hardest cultural shocks" (p. 175). They "encountered extreme economic and class differences" and were "thrust into largely, urban and highly multicultural environments" (p. …

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