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Activism in Jordan

Activism in Jordan

Pénélope Larzillière | Cynthia Schoch


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In Jordan, between censorship, repression and election rigging, political activism is limited – despite the democratic opening glimpsed in 1989. In this important new book, Pénélope Larzillière charts the path of longstanding activists in Jordan and shows how opposition movements there have shifted from the underground to a heavily controlled public sphere. Activists discuss their motivation and commitment and the consequences their activism has had throughout their lives. Not only do these accounts highlight the general conditions for political activism in a repressive regime, they also unpack the meaning individuals attach to their political journey and chosen ideology, whether communist, nationalist, Islamist or otherwise.

'A fascinating read… a valuable contribution to the literature on what is a vast topic, and has simplified it in such a way that not only covers important aspects but also does them justice in a very satisfying way.'
Middle East Monitor

'[T]his very readable work is an important contribution to the literature on political activism and contentious politics in non-democratic settings.'

‘Larzillière’s book sheds light on youth activism in Jordan, the theatre of one of the least studied components of the revolutionary wave that shook the Arab region in 2011. In so doing, it offers a most useful contribution to both the study of Jordanian politics and the analysis of the ongoing upheaval.’
Gilbert Achcar, author of The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising

‘An essential book for understanding Jordan’s key role as a stabilizing force in a chaotic Middle East.’
Denis Bauchard, former French ambassador to Jordan

‘Larzillière’s insightful book presents refreshing perspectives on the mobilization and demobilization of Islamist and left-wing movements in Jordan and the Arab world.’
Hamit Bozarslan, School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS)

Pénélope Larzillière is senior research fellow at the Institute for Research on Development (IRD-CEPED, Paris), and associate fellow at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (CADIS-EHESS). Her research focuses on political commitment, activism and ideologies, specializing in the Middle East. Her previous books include To Be Young in Palestine (Balland, 2004). She has also co-edited the journal issues 'Révolutions, contestations, indignations' (Socio, 2013) and 'Faut-il désoccidentaliser l’humanitaire?' (Humanitaire, 2010).

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Cover cover
Halftitle i
About the author ii
Title page iii
Copyright iv
Contents v
Acknowledgements vii
Introduction 1
Arenas of activism 5
Ideology and commitment 8
1. The Jordanian Regime 11
The Palestinian question 14
The limits of the 1989 open policy 16
Towards authoritarian liberalism 18
The Muslim Brotherhood: a co-opted opposition? 20
The repercussions of the Syrian crisis 25
2. Becoming an Activist 30
A sense of injustice: poverty and the Palestinian cause 32
Mentors 36
The political currents and their major figures 41
Opportunities for friendship, leisure activities and emancipation 44
3. The Student Experience 50
Local hegemonies and waves of membership 53
Arab universities, curricula and armed struggle 55
Crackdowns on the communists, and internal divisions 60
Islamist mobilization in universities 65
Social leaders 69
4. Activism, a Way of Life 73
Communist marginality 74
The Islamist foothold 82
Work and activism 88
5. Repression and Dissidence 96
Nationalists and communists: impossible and necessary underground activity 96
Authoritarian elections 104
Repression and legitimacy 106
6. Professional Activism as an Alternative 110
An alternative political arena 113
The professions mobilize for the Palestinian cause 115
A limited space 119
Union engagement 122
7. New Forms of Mobilization 131
Expert activism and project-oriented mobilization 132
Activist career changes: old activists, new activism? 140
The Arab Spring mobilizations of 2011 and 2012: issues and limits 146
The end of ideologies? Rise and decline of “grand narratives” 154
8. Disillusioned Islamists 158
Youssef: a post-Islamist trajectory 159
Asma: politics through satire and reform through education 167
Ibrahim: from Islamism to the left 173
Conclusion 180
Methodological Appendix 189
Questions of position 189
Questions of methodology 192
Sociodemographic data on the activists interviewed 198
Notes 203
Introduction 203
Chapter 1 203
Chapter 2 206
Chapter 3 209
Chapter 4 210
Chapter 5 212
Chapter 6 213
Chapter 7 216
Chapter 8 219
Conclusion 219
Methodological Appendix 220
Bibliography 222
Index 232