I have conducted anthropological fieldwork in Syria and Jordan during several years, focusing on political culture and democratization. I am also interested in addressing issues in political philosophy through ethnographic fieldwork.
The liberalization of Jordanian political culture: The new Maan
The Arab Spring showed that democratization in the Arab world seldom follows from an uprising against an authoritarian regime. Rather, democratization depends on slower changes. But what kind of changes? The project answers that question by studying a case where political liberalization is connected to a broader cultural change: the transformation of the political and social culture of Maan, a desert town in southern Jordan. This transformation is about the emergence of political parties, but also of certain forms of education and social life. The change is not only about a new national identity or a stronger civil society, but about something else, which several of Maan’s young residents call infitāḥ (openness), and which they contrast with the social and political landscape their parents grew up in. What is the character of infitāḥ? What can it teach us about the cultural foundations of political liberalization in the Arab world? And how does this “openness” differ from ideals that are associated with liberalism in a European context? These are the questions this project wants to answer.