Protesting Jordan
Geographies of Power and Dissent
Jillian Schwedler


Chapter 1


IN JANUARY 2018, THE JORDANIAN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCED A 10 percent tax increase on 164 basic goods, including grain, dairy, and produce. The price of bread doubled. Outside of the capital, Amman, protests broke out in the city of Salt and the town of Dhiban. By February they had spread south to the mountain town of Karak, and protests in those places continued through March. Demonstrators in all three locations held up bread and chanted, “Bread, Freedom, Social Justice!”—a slogan used across the region during the Arab uprisings in 2011.1 Although bread was just one of many goods to see price increases, it long has been associated with a basic and dignified life.2

Two months later, on May 21, the government proposed increasing taxes on Jordan’s middle class. The Union of Professional Associations announced a general strike on May 30. Both the private and public sectors were called to strike, as was “anyone affected by the government’s policies.” At least thirty-nine striking unions and professional associations were joined by small and medium capital owners whose businesses were feeling the diminished purchasing power of the lower and lower-middle classes.3 These “middle-class” protests—which brought tens of thousands to the streets nationwide, including many first-time protesters4—quickly evolved to include people whose incomes were too low to be affected by the tax increases.5 Demonstrators began chanting against corruption, the lifting of subsidies earlier in the year, and the regime’s embrace of neoliberal economic reforms. They again wrote slogans on pita bread and carried them as placards. With participation crossing class lines, the protests created the conditions of possibility for new forms of solidarity; the question, however, was whether those solidarities would be thwarted or cultivated.

Jordanians refer to these protests (May 30–June 7, 2018) as Habbit Huzayran (June rage) or Habbit Ramadan (Ramadan being the month on the Islamic calendar).6 Habbi means to catch on fire—for example, habbit al-nar means to burst into flames. In using the term to describe protests, it conveys a sense of exploding in sudden action or bursting forth in rage—an uprising or rising against an intolerable situation.7 The term also indexes an emotional outburst—anger or rage—that connects the economic to the political through the act of Jordanians flooding the streets, occupying major intersections, and engaging in loud claim-making. The label habbi also evokes a connection to earlier anti-austerity protests: the Habbit Nisan (April rage) protests of 1989 (concerning petrol subsidies) and the Habbit Tishreen protests of 2012 (electricity and fuel subsidies).

At most protests, Jordanians direct their anger toward the prime minister or Parliament, even though the king dictates or at least approves all policies. Lèse-majesté is a punishable offense in Jordan under multiple laws, including Article 195 of the Penal Code, which forbids one to raise one’s voice—literally one’s tongue—against the king.8 Punishments can include years of hard labor and hefty fines as well as more informal practices such as punishing one’s extended family through the denial of employment or university admission. Since at least 2010, however, a small but growing number of Jordanians have dared to cross that “red line”9 and brazenly criticize the king. The most explicit criticism has come primarily from Jordanians of East Bank descent—those with long-standing affective connections (pre–twentieth century) to lands east of the Jordan River. A significant portion of these Jordanians—who are often seen as the regime’s support base—view King Abdullah II as having failed to honor the social contract10 established in the 1920s between his great-grandfather (and namesake) and the East Bank local authorities of his time.

Criticism from East Bank communities is worrisome for the regime because they are a core constituency for the monarchy. Economic grievances among their numbers have been growing since the 2000s, particularly over the >privatization of state industries and state efforts to attract foreign investment. Many East Bankers feel that they are disproportionately suffering under the king’s economic policies, so they turn to protests to express their outrage over corruption, unemployment, and neoliberalism in general. Activist Ali Brizat, for example, declared in a recorded speech during the winter 2018 protests, “These decisions [cutting subsidies] are beyond reckless. The real recklessness is that of the king and none other than the king.” The Brizat family belongs to the powerful Bani Hamida tribal confederation, one of a number of large, extended sets of East Bank families that see themselves as sharing a common descent, social practices, local authority structures, and spatial attachments to specific lands.11 Brizat was arrested for his comments in February but released a few weeks later.12 Similarly in June 2018, another opposition figure, Fares al-Fayiz of the powerful Bani Sakhr tribal confederation, was arrested after criticizing the king at a protest. “We want to change the political formula,” he said in a speech that was filmed and posted to social media. “We will not accept you as a king, prime minister, defense minister, police chief, and governor. You are everything! You became a demigod, according to this constitution, and we are slaves!”13

Fayiz’s comments reflect another common complaint: that while Jordan is officially a constitutional monarchy, in practice as well as law the king is all powerful. He articulated in public what many say privately: that the privatization of state industries since the 2000s has unfairly benefited those close to the royal family. Fayiz, however, went so far as to describe Queen Rania as “Satan” and accuse her family members of looting Jordan for their personal wealth. While his arrest for his comments was expected, members of his tribe still responded with outrage. At one news conference, his son threatened that unless his father was released, the Bani Sakhr would block the Amman–Madaba road—built on historically Bani Sakhr land—to disrupt traffic to the airport. Fayiz was released. As we shall see in coming chapters, blocking major transit routes is a long-standing part of Jordan’s protest repertoire—the tactics and spatial techniques for public political claim-making that are embodied in a kind of circulating public knowledge.14 How did the regime’s supposed support base become the source of its loudest and harshest critics?


Protesting Jordan argues that protests and other public acts of political dissent provide an ideal entry point for understanding Jordanian politics while also being worthy of greater theorization in their own right. What role do protests play in both challenging and reproducing state power? Why do protests emerge in particular locations and moments and take the form they do? Why are state coercive apparatuses deployed unevenly against protests? What are the political effects of routine protests, given their ritual character, the repetitiveness of their demands, and the fact that they do not translate into political disruptions? And how do regional and global financial and security arrangements shape protests at the local level and vice versa?

To answer these and other questions, I leverage the rich literature on space and geography to make three main interventions that have broader theoretical purchase. The first is that protests are integral to processes of state-making and state-maintaining. How would-be political leaders contend with resistance to and claims about their efforts to establish authority shapes the institutions and practices of governance. As occasions for publicly airing grievances, protests can work to both challenge existing power structures and reproduce them—sometimes simultaneously. Protests are also not exceptional “events” that rupture “normal” institutional politics. Rather, challenges to political authority are routine and ongoing, and protests work to structure the political terrain on which authorities seek to produce and maintain their power.15 Public expressions of dissent also expose as well as build the affective connections and spatial imaginaries that would-be authorities strive to bring into alignment with their own political ambitions.

A second theoretical intervention explores how and why protest and repression vary across space, and how they shape the built environment and vice versa. The ways in which the built environment is mapped and organized can facilitate some forms of protest but lead to the easy suppression of others. I show, for example, that even within a given city, protest repertoires can take utterly different forms in one place compared to an adjacent neighborhood, and that, for this reason, the state’s responses are also distinct. Protests can also expose as well as shape how social, economic, and political powers are organized, distributed, and located spatially and geographically.

A third intervention is that geographies of regional and global entanglement shape protests and vice versa. These include imperial and colonial projects and the spatial imaginaries they seek to bring into being. For example, an imperial project built around the control of trade routes and the extraction of taxes differs in scope and substance from a colonial project aimed at creating a territorial state with a centralized administration. Patterns of regional and global financialization and securitization likewise shape, and are shaped by, patterns of protest and how they are located in material and symbolic space. Neither the subnational nor the transnational scales have analytic primacy, as they together coproduce politics at the national scale. This multiscalar approach helps bring into view spatial variations in repertoires of protest and repression, while showing how Jordan’s attachment to regional and global security arrangements has effects on protests and vice versa.

In the remainder of this chapter, I define what I mean by protests and present a multiscalar framework for thinking about protest and repression in terms of spaces and geographies of power and dissent. I outline the theoretical and empirical contributions of the three main interventions, previewing arguments developed in the coming chapters. Then I revisit the 2018 Habbit Huzayran protests, showing how the grievances expressed by protesters bring into view competing narratives about Jordan’s past and visions of its future. Increasingly, protests have become routine occasions for the regime’s East Bank constituency to publicly air grievances and threaten to withdraw support for king and throne. And as we shall see, Jordanians turn to protests because they often bring results. Finally, I discuss my methodology and preview the chapters to come.

Defining Protests

Protest is the expression of dissent. It can be done loudly or quietly, collectively or individually, and publicly or secretly. Protest is dissent externalized, even if done without hope of affecting change, and the perpetrators need not be part of an organization or movement. Demonstrations, riots, marches, strikes, and sit-ins are all familiar forms of protest. Passivity can likewise be a form of protest, as can boycotting or not showing up.

Much of the social science literature on protests has focused on the forms or tactics of public claim-making. Why do protests take the forms that they do? What factors explain the dynamics and trajectory of protests and whether they are able to achieve their objectives? Erica Chenoweth’s work on nonviolent action is exemplary of such outcome-oriented analyses. She asks, for example, whether nonviolent protests are more successful in realizing change than violent protests; and, under what conditions are nonviolent protests able to affect decolonization, revolution, or structural reform?16 Protesting Jordan addresses these questions, but it also looks beyond the success/failure model to explore how protests can have a wide range of observable political effects.

Another dimension of outcome-oriented analyses is that the object of study is often a movement or uprising (or revolution, wave of protests, and so on), and the primary puzzle to be explained is what might be called its “life cycle.” As a metaphor, life cycle invokes a temporality that directs our attention to the object of study’s origin, trajectory, and fate. Most work on protests in Jordan follows this tendency to focus on specific movements—of teachers, laborers, or political parties—and whether their movements are successful in achieving their goals by mounting protests as occasions for claim-making. When did the movement/uprising start? How did it evolve? How many participated and what forms did the protests take? And again, was it successful? Beyond the case of Jordan, many early analyses of the Arab uprisings of 2011 sought to explain variations in the trajectories and outcomes of different uprisings. In such studies, each state is treated as an autonomous unit, and the conditions that define which had an “uprising” hinge on judgments about the size of the mobilization and its potential for affecting political change. Here, a book-length analysis by Jason Brownlee, Tarek Masoud, and Andrew Reynolds is illustrative of the limits of such an orientation. They ask why some uprisings led to regime reform while others led to repression, and why uprisings failed to materialize in cases like Saudi Arabia and Algeria.17 They find that successful uprisings emerged in places without a hereditary executive or significant oil rents—explanatory variables internal to each case. What is missing in their analysis is the extent to which these states are differently situated in regional and global financial and security arrangements, and how other states intervened in often aggressive ways to affect the trajectory and outcome of otherwise domestic uprisings. Each uprising certainly had dynamics unique to it; but focusing primarily or even exclusively on domestic factors overlooks the role of regional and global factors in shaping the trajectories of individual instances.18

Protesting Jordan asks a different set of questions than these outcome-oriented and movement-centric approaches, although it does explore the outcomes and broader political effects of protests. The analysis situates individual protests—including those of the uprising period—within long-term patterns and repertoires of protest and repression, with additional attention to spatial variation at the subnational level and connections at regional and global scales. It also adds an additional question: How do protesters, counterprotesters, political authorities, and those observing the protests understand these acts of public claim-making? Bringing these diverse standpoints into focus allows us to see the meaning-making work done through protest and repression as well as how that matters for both contesting and reproducing state power.

How to define “protest” in such a capacious analysis spanning a century and a half? The definition used here is simply “people assembling in public to express some form of claim-making.” This broad understanding of protest can accommodate such diverse acts as revolts and rebellions; obstruction of transportation routes; destruction or sabotage of property and infrastructure; traveling to government offices to demand jobs or benefits; and all manner of demonstrations, strikes, marches, riots, and sit-ins. The approach takes up the invitation made by Doug McAdam, Sidney Tarrow, and Charles Tilly in 2000 to think broadly about contentious politics and move away from compartmentalizing different “types” of contentious claim-making (e.g., the distinct literatures on revolutions, social movements, civil wars, etc.).19 I show how twenty-first-century repertoires of contention—including their geographic and spatial dynamics—are built around the memories and practices of earlier acts of rebellion. The state and its challengers both learn and innovate as well by observing, adopting, and even training in the tactics and techniques of protests and repression elsewhere.

Of course, there are nontrivial distinctions in what Jordanians understand protests to mean—in the nineteenth century as today. Because not all Jordanians understand rebellion and dissent in the same way, I attend carefully to the language used to describe diverse acts of claim-making that I collect under the umbrella “protest.” Early Bedouin raids, for example, were and still are described as ghazawat (pl.), the same term used to describe conquests in the early Islamic period. Some non-Transjordanian anti-Ottoman writers label anti-Ottoman revolts as thawra (also translated as “revolution”), but in Jordan the local word for those early revolts is most often hayyi (a local variation on habbi, or “rage,” discussed above), as in the Hayyit al-Karak detailed in the next chapter.20 By comparison, the more large-scale Great Arab Revolt of 1916–18 (al-thawra al-ʿarabiyya al-kubra) is labeled a revolt or revolution, as are the Palestinian revolts of the 1930s (al-thawrat al-filistiniyya). The few uses of thawra to describe early revolts in Jordan seem to be efforts to exaggerate their breadth and impact.21 Few Jordanians describe even massive protests in Jordan as thawrat (pl.), and the term is seldom invoked during protests (but see chap. 6). Most activists call the 2011 uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia thawrat, but they call their own nationwide protests during that period merely ihtijajat (pl., protests)—a noun that did not come into wide usage until the 1950s. Nationwide anti-austerity protests, however, are labeled habbat (pl. of habbi), public outbursts of rage, and those titles are widely recognized by even those who opposed the protests. Intifada, a term closely associated with the Palestinian intifadas of 1987 and 2000, is also sometimes used to describe a nationwide uprising. For different forms of protest, Jordanians also use the vocabulary of mudthahira (demonstration), masira (march), zahf (slow procession or crawl), ʿidrab (strike), tamarud (revolt), and iʿtisam (sit-in).

Finally, because of the way social science has studied protests, many analyses overlook small or routine protests, and scholarship on Jordan largely follows this trend. Nationwide protests receive scholarly and journalistic attention, but thousands of smaller and localized acts of public claim-making often go entirely unnoticed, particularly nontransgressive protests—those that do not seek to overturn existing political institutions or power relations.22 I will show how examining protests that are not disruptive or seem to have failed to achieve their goals provides a richer understanding not only of politics in Jordan but of the political work of protests more generally.

Protests, State-Making, and State-Maintaining

Protests are integral to processes of state-making and state-maintaining. Numerous scholars have already shown how states came into existence in Europe as elites forged allies with financiers that enabled them to support standing armies and extend their authority over a territory.23 One method for diffusing challenges to would-be political authorities was to integrate the rebellious into the emerging state—for example, by bestowing aristocratic titles or via other forms of clientelism. Colonial state-making differed from the European model, of course, but co-optation and accommodation proved enduring techniques for deflating dissent, and how those techniques were deployed shaped the structure of emergent territorial states. John Chalcraft makes this argument in his ambitious study about the making of the modern Middle East, showing how contentious mobilization shaped overall patterns of historical change.24

Following this sensibility, I show how the making of the Jordanian state beginning in 1921 was not a top-down process, as often portrayed, but a dialectical one. The colonial project of creating a territorial state with a centralized administration was undertaken by an alliance of British forces and the powerful Hashemite family that had for years ruled the Hijaz region in western Arabia. My analysis, however, begins fifty years earlier in order to bring into view the geographies of power and dissent—along with the repertoires for protest and repression—that characterized the Transjordanian area prior to the establishment of British-Hashemite colonial rule.25 I use the term “Transjordanian area” to refer to the territory on which the colonial state would be established, while also foregrounding how the people residing there recognized various local authorities over particular lands. I pay particular attention to imbricating spatial imaginaries and their affective connections with places and people beyond their local communities and the territorial state that would later emerge (chap. 2).

Transjordanians’ articulations of their desires, and their reactive demands to British and Hashemite efforts to establish centralized authority, contributed to form the new state as much as, or perhaps even more than, the colonial authorities that dominated Jordanian society. Bedouin revolts in the 1920s and 1930s created so many problems for the would-be centralized authority that the colonial powers could stop them only by providing the Bedouin with permanent employment and benefits. Settled tribal leaders during the same period—frustrated with both favoritism toward rival tribes and government employment of people hailing from elsewhere in Greater Syria (Bilad al-Sham)—frequently revolted and sometimes marched to Amman to express their grievances and make demands on the new regime. Aided by British largess, the Hashemite regime eventually gained the backing of powerful East Bank tribal leaders—the relationship of patronage and favoritism that Jordanians refer to as the social contract. Perhaps most tellingly, the colonial powers created an entirely new geography of political authority in the Transjordanian area by establishing the new capital in small-town Amman. Had they chosen one of the larger towns, budding Hashemite authority would have had to compete with existing local authority structures.

The new capital was instead established in a small town with a railway stop, populated by merchants and refugees with little more than a generation of ties to the area. Powerful tribal authority structures elsewhere in the Transjordanian area were left largely undisturbed, but within only a few decades the political center and periphery were largely inverted. Large flows of Palestinian refugees after the 1948 and 1967 wars also profoundly altered the newly independent nation’s demographics, more than doubling the population and turning Amman into the nation’s largest city. But because the regime continued to rely on East Bank support to shore up its authority, state-maintaining required that the regime continue to honor the social contract.

Over the decades, the Hashemite regime has faced down repeated challenges to its rule, including by leftists and Arab nationalists, Palestinian militias, violent conflicts on its borders, Islamist extremists, and nationwide protests that periodically bring the country to a standstill. Many analysts half-jokingly describe the Hashemite regime as “forever on the brink”; even thoughtful scholars deploy the phrase while noting its irony.26 But rather than dismissing the phrase as an unhelpful cliché, I unpack its contradictions to show what kind of political work that perception of Jordan does for reproducing state power. Indeed, the Hashemite regime itself has advanced notions of both stability and looming instability—sometimes to different audiences—as part of a strategy to insure the survival of its rule. It puts forth the image of Jordan as a stable and unified nation, for example, to attract foreign investment and reassure its allies. Maintaining that “stability,” however, relies on a massive security apparatus and a militarized built environment, made possible only with considerable economic and military assistance from the United States and, to a lesser extent, the Gulf states. The security state not only seeks to crush political dissent, it also enables Jordan to remain open for business, projecting the regime’s stability into the future to assuage the concerns of potential investors as well as regional and global allies. At the same time, however, the regime concomitantly invokes ever-present, looming threats: Islamist extremism, violent conflicts in neighboring states, and fiscal problems exacerbated by multiple influxes of refugees. It uses those “looming threats” to justify efforts to silence political dissent through a wide range of techniques, including expanding security forces as well as the reach of antiterror and cybercrime laws enacted in the name of national security. Jordanians thus live under the tyranny of “crisis” times while enjoying little of the benefits of stable “normal” times. When deployed not by scholars but by the state, the “forever on the brink” trope works as a technique for insuring the maintenance of the Hashemite regime.

All political regimes, of course, strive to project stability as a means of creating it, and challenges to state authority are the rule rather than the exception.27 Here a politics of time comes to the fore during protests, and the case of Jordan is ideal for such a theoretical exploration. By invoking alternative futures, protests seek to challenge the state and thus destabilize its assertion of stability in ways that might open real space (and not just discursive space) to disrupt the temporality of the regime’s stability extending into the future. In this way, we can recognize that the real threat for the Hashemite regime—one it does not want domestic or international audiences to see—is that its authority has been repeatedly called into question in recent decades, most publicly at protests by the regime’s supposed East Bank support base. But here it is important to not treat East Bank communities as monolithic and unified. Indeed, while Jordanians of East Bank descent have been the regime’s most vocal critics, East Bankers also dominate the state security sector and turnout as loyalist counterprotesters. And even seemingly stalwart loyalists—conservatives who oppose real democratization because they wish to maintain East Bank political power—can pose challenges for the Hashemite regime. Some even embrace a kind of chauvinistic and racist nativism—the idea that only those people with long-standing roots in the Transjordanian area, specifically those residing there prior to World War I, are true Jordanians. In such a formulation, the Hashemite royal family are outsiders, a claim that calls into question its moral authority to rule. King Abdullah II has struggled to contain this and other dissent in East Bank tribal areas, illuminating the extent to which accommodating political dissent works alongside repression in the maintenance of state authority.

The Interaction between Protests, Repression, and Space

The dynamics of protest and how states deploy forces against them vary not only depending on who is protesting, what they are demanding, and how they are doing so, but also on where protests take place. The vast literatures on social movement and contentious politics began to explore questions concerning space in the late 1990s,28 and a growing number of scholars across a number of disciplines (including geography, urban studies, political science, sociology, history, and anthropology) took up the spatial aspects of contentious politics in earnest by the 2000s. This diverse literature brings multiple kinds of spatialities—including scale, place, network, positionality, and mobility—into analyses of contentious politics.29 Scholarly attention to the spatial dimensions of protest (as opposed to social movements or revolutions) remains more limited, however, but it has begun to increase in recent years.30

The interaction between protests and space has several dimensions. First, the physical space of the built environment can shape protests by creating obstacles to assembly or movement and by limiting what can be seen or heard—thus affecting the disruptive potential of protests (positively or negatively). Space is not merely a container or location for protest, as it can structure the impact of protests, convey meaning, and present both possibilities and obstacles for protests to have political effects. Second, protesters also interact with the built environment, for example, by blocking roads, damaging property, and sabotaging infrastructure. Protests can work as acts of place-making, creating and shaping the memories and symbolism embodied in particular physical spaces and at particular moments. Third, states seek to constrain the potential challenges of protests by altering the built environment, both materially and symbolically. These processes include the militarization of the city; spatial repertoires of repression; and regime efforts to construct a nationalist history through the built environment that bolsters the regime’s claims to authority.

The relationship between protest and the built environment is thus dialectic: protests shape the meaning and form of particular spaces and vice versa. Repression of protests has similar dynamics, shaping protest and the built environment but also being shaped by both. In his discussion of four hundred years of protest and rebellion in New York City, Don Mitchell details how the violence of protests—undertaken by those engaged in claim-making as well as those seeking to silence them—can produce meaningful change in the built environment as well as how the city operates socially, economically, and politically.

Violent upheaval influences investment decisions—how capital circulates in or flees from the urban landscape—and thus where and how New Yorkers can live, work, and play. Urban violence, whether organized or disorganized, shapes laws, leads to new strategies of policing, and influences the development of institutions (like the police department itself).31

Because protests are mounted in identifiable physical spaces, new meanings and histories about those places can also invoke and evoke alternative narratives of the past and new imaginaries of the future.

The coming chapters will detail how the interaction of protest and repression with the built environment has played just such a role in state-making, place-making, and state-maintaining. Thinking beyond conventional notions of scale, as Neil Brenner does, allows us to see how urban and national spaces are constitutively multiscalar.32 Since the 2000s, King Abdullah II has used state policies and resources to more aggressively direct flows of capital across Jordan, reshaping the built environment in some locations (such as Amman, Aqaba, and tourist and investment zones) while leaving other areas relatively untouched; those decisions (e.g., neoliberal reforms) are the subject of protests, as we have already seen. The state also creates material obstacles to protest in the built environment, aiming to deflate the potential for protests to be disruptive and foreclose place-making that might challenge the official narrative about Jordan’s past and future. The coming chapters explore these processes from before the Hashemite state-making period through the neoliberal period beginning in the 1980s, and I introduce a new typology for understanding state strategies for controlling protests in the built environment.

Geographies of Regional and Global Entanglement

Finally, Protesting Jordan situates Jordan within regional and global entanglements, asking how they shape the spatial and geographic dimensions of protest and protest repression in the Hashemite Kingdom, and how and why those geographies have changed over time. Configurations of domestic, regional, and global power relations (and the challenges to them) project a set of social, economic, and political geographies that at times clash and at times imbricate but are never fully congruent. These are the geographies of trade, patronage networks, local histories, electoral maps, urban planning, energy sources, affective connections, agricultural production, water availability, tribal authority and rivalries, imperial and colonial ambitions, and pastoral and nomadic practices—not to mention the regional and international geographies of neoliberal austerity, urban megaprojects, free trade zones, foreign trade and investment, military alliances, and networks of policing and securitization.

My approach leverages the notion of geographies of power and dissent to bring into focus flows, practices, affinities, understandings, and histories that are spatially and historically situated but do not always correspond to the territorial borders of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. In the first quarter of the twentieth century, for example—the period surrounding the arrival of the Hashemites in the Transjordanian area—we can identify multiple spatial imaginaries and the political forces seeking to reshape them. While Ottoman imperial and later British colonial powers each aimed to assert their control over the lands and peoples that most interested them, Great Britain eyed a much larger territory and the creation of multiple centralized, territorial states in the region. Local inhabitants, however, had their own affective connections to and understandings of their lands and the people who lived in them; those spatial imaginaries were incongruent with those of the colonial state.

The arrival of Abdullah I in the southern town of Maʿan in late 1920 marked a shift from the imperial Ottoman project to a new territorial colonial project that envisioned an entirely new political geography—that of a sovereign state with fixed borders and centralized administration. Efforts to realize that project clashed with the existing practices and geographical understandings of the various peoples residing in the broader Transjordanian area. In this sense protest and resistance at the time were about the terrain of the emerging Hashemite state, and not merely taking place on that terrain. Not just glimmers but forerunners of later political contention existed, in rich and undiluted form, in forgotten preindependence episodes, and in liminal spaces overlooked by focusing the analysis exclusively at the national level. The arrival of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians after 1948 and 1967 again restructured Jordan’s political geography, connecting Transjordan to Palestinian lands west of the Jordan River. The regime’s annexation of the West Bank strained the East Bank social contract and complicated the question of Jordanian identity as well as whom the state serves. And throughout his near fifty-year reign, King Hussein, Abdullah I’s grandson, clung to a larger spatial imaginary, a wished-for unified Hashemite entity that would not only include Palestine’s West Bank but would also extend over Iraq.

Today, Jordan is deeply involved in a Saudi-led regional security network (particularly the alliance among Sunni states against perceived and real encroachment of Iranian influence), itself part of a larger US-centered global security arrangement. Jordan not only sends its security forces to participate in the policing of protests elsewhere in the region, it also operates multiple training sites for gendarmerie and counterterrorism forces from across the globe, with direct US assistance. These investments in securitization and policing both produce and project the appearance of the kind of political stability necessary to attract foreign investment, embark on the construction of foreign-funded multibillion-dollar megaprojects, and operate zones of economic exception that function as shared sovereign spaces with the United States and Israel. Many Jordanians voice contentious claims against Jordan’s role in these regional and global arrangements, and Protesting Jordan’s multiscalar approach brings all of these into clear view.


The 2018 Habbit Huzaryan protests introduced at the outset of this chapter marked an escalation in the willingness of some Jordanians—particularly those from the regime’s East Bank tribal support base—to openly criticize the king during protests. That opening dates to the uprisings that began in 2011 (chap. 6), during which slogans, chants, and speeches began to advance narratives about Jordan that clashed with the official narrative of Hashemite rule. The political stakes of competing narratives are perhaps highest when they call into question who has the right to political authority and whether those in power are ruling justly. As E. P. Thompson showed in his study of the English working class, protests break out not in response to grievances but when a strong sense that some egregious injustice has occurred.33 Competing political actors, of course, seldom agree on the meaning of historical or even current political happenings. This is not to suggest that all actor evaluations are equally valid, or that some empirical claims are not better supported by historical evidence than others. But protests work as moments of public interpretation, and they advance alternative narratives that index competing projects, visions, and political stakes. How rebellions, uprisings, and demonstrations are publicly remembered and commemorated work to both assert claims on the past and stake claims on the future.

Michel-Rolph Trouillot begins his meditation on power and the stakes of historical narratives with a discussion of the events that unfolded in nineteenth-century Texas—then a Mexican province—where Mexican general Antonio López de Santa Anna roundly defeated the English-speakers occupying the Alamo mission in San Antonio. Tables turned a few weeks later, as Santa Anna fell prisoner to Texan troops under the command of Sam Houston. The political stakes of that history lie not only in who won—which certainly matters most—but how those events are remembered, anchored in narratives that assert moral as well as material claims. As Trouillot writes,

Houston’s men had punctuated their victorious attack on the Mexican army with repeated shouts of “Remember the Alamo!” With that reference to the old mission, they doubly made history. As actors, they captured Santa Anna and neutralized his forces. As narrators, they gave the Alamo story a new meaning. The military loss . . . was no longer the end point of the narrative but a necessary turn in the plot, the trial of the heroes, which, in turn, made final victory both inevitable and grandiose.34

Victors always get to narrate history, of course, and the narrative of ultimate Texan victory following the Alamo defeat is reproduced in textbooks, at annual commemorations, and spatially through the site’s enshrinement as a major event in Texan and US history. But just as state power must be constantly reproduced, the historical narratives that authorize them must also fend off competitors. The Alamo story’s competitor is that the Inter-Tribal Council of American Indians seeks to have the burial grounds of more than a thousand Native American Catholics adjacent to the Alamo mission recognized as sacred grounds by the state of Texas and the city of Antonio. This “second battle of the Alamo,” as Trouillot puts it, questions the very meaning of the siege: was the Alamo a brutal slaughter of brave English-speaking pioneers who decided to fight until death rather than surrender to a corrupt Mexican dictator? Or was it instead an example of brutal and racist expansionism, “the story of a few white predators taking over what was sacred territory and half-willingly providing, with their death, the alibi for a well-planned annexation?”35

Control of physical space is obviously central to state-making and state-maintaining, and the US-centric Alamo narrative is dominant in large part because Texas won. But while the United States exerts authority over that territory, thousands of Native Americans literally occupy parts of that land in their graves. The Inter-Tribal Council wants that occupation to be officially recognized, which would force the dominant narrative to accommodate those moral claims. Furthermore, if the graves are recognized as Native American sacred ground, visitors to the site would directly confront the place-making of marking the grounds as sacred and off-limits. Here the challenging narrative struggles to inscribe its alternative temporality and moral and material claims in the built environment, insisting that past events have other meanings. If they are successful, however, they will also invoke a possible alternative future. Will the United States maintain absolute sovereign control over the whole Alamo site, or will it be forced to cede space to Native American control and allow its place-making? Could such a loss be the first in a series of coming US losses, however small and symbolic? Temporally, competing narratives signal potential turns in the plot, bringing forth both incongruent spatial imaginaries and narratives of the past and the present. They also project into the future moral and material claims, and the stakes of some disagreements are higher than others.

*   *   *

How do competing narratives in Jordan signal potential turns in the plot? What are the challenges to the state’s official narrative of the past and the present? In June 2016, Jordan celebrated the centennial of the Great Arab Revolt, when the Hashemites (then based in the Hijaz region of western Arabia) joined British forces to help bring down the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The revolt is celebrated annually on or around June 10, which is also Jordan’s Army Day. The 2016 centennial celebration included massive displays of Jordanian military forces, including a brigade on horses. Such pageantry both invokes and romanticizes the time of the revolt, when horses were also the primary means for Bedouin raids. The mounted soldiers and many spectators donned the red-checkered scarf that symbolizes Transjordanian identity. (The black-and-white keffiyeh is also worn in Jordan, but it symbolizes Palestinian identity.) While these celebrations invoke a time when the Hashemites did not exert political authority over Transjordanian lands, they seek to connect Hashemites with a longer history of Arab tribal victory over foreign powers.

That history, and sometimes even Hashemite authority in Jordan, is publicly challenged at protests. Despite the battery of laws criminalizing criticism of the king, many of the regime’s most outspoken critics enjoy relative protection because they belong to powerful East Bank families or tribes. Yet criticism does not come only from the wealthy and well-connected; poor and unemployed Jordanians of East Bank descent have also not hesitated to directly blame the king for their dire circumstances. Some protest chants invoke the king indirectly, as in this one from the 2018 Habbit Huzayran protests referencing an upscale neighborhood in West Amman, where several royal palaces are located: “You, who live in Dabouq, down with the rule of the [International Monetary] Fund!”36

In 2019, weekly protests at a parking lot adjacent to the Jordan Hospital expressed anger at King Abdullah II. At one protest commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the 1989 Habbit Nisan protests (detailed in chap. 4), some two dozen protesters were surrounded by a diverse group observing them: journalists, bystanders, retired military officers, political figures (including parliamentarian Hind al-Fayiz of the Bani Sakhr), and at least two dozen plainclothes intelligence officers filming the protesters on their phone cameras. The parking lot was ringed by some hundred uniformed officers from at least three security forces. Yet the protesters were unintimidated, chanting against the king for more than two hours. One chant, for example, criticized Abdullah II’s economic failures, albeit without mentioning the king by name: “Twenty years on the throne, nothing green or dry remains!”37 In the latter part of this chant, “green” invokes fresh food as well as bank notes, and “dry” is a reference to stale bread—effectively, “we are so broke that we don’t even have stale bread to eat.” To have nothing to eat, no money, and not even bread is to say that one does not have even the basics of a dignified life. Blame for this hardship is placed directly on the king, who has failed to improve their condition after two decades of rule.

Another chant at that protest defiantly informed the king that people would no longer publicly celebrate him: “We stopped saying ‘long live you,’ why should we die, and you live?”38 The “you” is again a clear reference to the king, a direct play on the phrasing of the familiar, reverential chant.39 But because the king neglects his people and indeed appears to be unaware of their suffering, why should Jordanians declare, “Long live his majesty the great!” when they are unemployed and starving?

Another chant directly challenges the regime’s historical narrative, the one advanced at celebrations like the anniversary of the Great Arab Revolt. Whereas the official narrative connects the Hashemites to Jordan’s Arab and Bedouin tribal heritage, one chant invoked an alternative spatial imaginary: “Our [house/land] was Jordanian before the Great Arab Revolt!”40 This chant is quite a provocation, as it asserts that the only true Jordanians are those who called the Transjordanian area home prior to World War I. Since the Hashemites arrived only in late 1920, they therefore are not Jordanian.41 Such provocations have come to characterize a growing segment of the protest landscape, with a steady increase beginning in 2010. From a few individuals willing to call out the regime at that time, larger crowds now openly criticized the king. As the coming chapters will show, however, growing criticisms have not translated into unified calls to remove either Abdullah II or the Hashemite regime from power. Indeed, most Jordanians of East Bank descent see the preservation of Hashemite authority as key to maintaining East Bank tribal privilege. In that sense, some of the criticisms of the king at protests are more conservative than revolutionary.

The analyses presented in the coming chapters explore the political history of Jordan from the standpoint of diverse local peoples asserting claims that have shaped the Hashemite state-making and state-maintaining projects. The title, Protesting Jordan, therefore has two meanings. First, it highlights the centuries-old practices of people living in the Transjordanian area of asserting claims against political authorities through collective public expressions of dissent: Jordanians are endlessly protesting. Second, it brings into view growing anger among East Bank tribes toward the Hashemite regime and radical nativist claims about who is Jordanian and whether the Hashemites have a place in Jordan’s future: Jordanians are protesting about whom the state serves. Protesting Jordan is also a regional and global story, one that cannot be fully comprehended without acknowledging the Hashemite regime’s multiple entanglements with global economic processes and regional and global security arrangements.42 Finally, the substantial original empirical material provides a rich opportunity to also theorize about protests in their own right by exploring their meaning-making and their spatial dimensions at multiple scales.


Protesting Jordan is an avowedly interdisciplinary and interpretivist work that engages debates in the fields of political science, anthropology, history, geography, and urban planning. It examines the geographies of power and dissent in the Transjordanian area through multiple theoretical approaches, including networks, place-making, spatial imaginaries, and the militarization of space. The analysis is situated at multiple scales,43 showing how particular spatial arrangements are implicated and coimplicated in challenges to the regime and in regime responses to those challenges.44

But the analysis is not a case study in the conventional sense of examining Jordan as an object that objectively exists “out there.” I adopt the alternative approach that Joe Soss calls “casing” (a verb). Casing allows the researcher to create “new standpoints for interpretation, new paths for generalization, and new terms for relational, processual, or comparative analysis.”45 I “case” my study of protests in Jordan from the standpoint of the people resisting, engaging, and seeking to shape the evolving power structures in the Transjordanian area as well as state responses to them. Thus, instead of treating Jordan exclusively as a spatially bound, territorial state (although it is that), I move between multiple scales, sometimes zooming in to a single building and at other times zooming out to the regional and global levels. My aim is not merely to dislodge the conventional narrative of top-down state-making in Jordan but also to theorize about protest and space in ways that can advance our understanding of how political authority and challenges to it are mutually constituted in part through acts of public claim-making.

In addition to questions about space, I also examine multiple time frames and temporalities. These include the temporalities of my own analysis as well as those that different Jordanians themselves invoke, contest, and embrace.46 I consider pacing, eventful moments, “normal” versus “crisis” times, and the affective connections that people invoke as they make claims about the past, present, and future. As shown, some protest chants convey a time frame that anchors “true” Jordanians spatially in the Transjordanian area prior to the Hashemite era. The Hashemite regime, however, anchors Jordan’s past less spatially than culturally, weaving Bedouin, Islamic, and Biblical references into a Jordanian heritage that is broad enough to encompass Hashemite familial history.47 I also reflect on the temporalities of my own analysis at various junctures. More than mere stylistic choice, the chosen analytic temporality in each chapter structures the arc of the analysis and brings certain things into view while obscuring others. Before previewing the multiple temporalities in the coming chapters, however, I pause to note that a scholar’s choice of temporality can also do work that is political, often in unintended ways. Many early studies of the Arab uprisings, for example, were quick to proclaim the uprisings to be over by 2012, concluding that all of them had failed save the Tunisian uprising. And yet for years to come, hundreds of thousands across the region continued to protest. In such analyses the life-cycle temporality of the uprisings worked to reinforce the very narratives being advanced by autocratic regimes, namely, that the uprising period was “over” when the larger crowds diminished. Protesters struggled to keep the uprising period alive, and along with it the promise of an alternative future. Protesting Jordan seeks to avoid this pitfall, giving voice to multiple narratives and their sometimes clashing temporalities.

In my analysis here, long-term temporalities illuminate shifting geographies of power and dissent related to empire, colonialism, state-making, and state-maintaining in the face of considerable dissent. These struggles unfold over the course of decades and sometimes centuries, and I bring into view multiple spatial imaginaries for patterns of trade, urban settlement, foreign intervention, tribal authority, conflicts over resources and territories, and migration for education and employment. I show how the increasing pace of urban growth in the capital—and variations in development across the city—contrast with the relative stagnation of the outlying governorates. Modes of slowing down—such as marches on foot that converge on locations in the capital representing not government power but the monarchy—can at times raise the stakes for challenges that the regime is then unable to ignore.

I also utilize medium-term temporalities to explore particular series of protests, but I directly probe the limits of the life-cycle time frames by drawing multiscalar connections across space and time. My discussion of Jordan’s protests during the time of the Arab uprisings, for example, situates those protests within a shift in spatial practices of protest that preceded the uprising period by several years while exploring people’s affective connections to other significant periods of protest in Jordan as well as the other uprisings in the region. Finally, I employ short-term temporalities and local scales to examine the microdynamics of protests that unfold in particular spaces over a matter of minutes or hours. I consider how diverse political actors understand the temporalities of change as well as how the histories and futures that they invoke challenge those advanced by the regime.

Beginning with chapter 4, most of the empirical material is original and comes from my field research in Jordan from 1995 to 2020—some two dozen trips totaling approximately five years of residence. Field research methods include elite interviews, ethnographies of protests, and public ethnography of places in the built environment.48 I attended some three dozen protests, interviewed journalists and members of political parties and professional associations, served as scholar-in-residence at three Jordanian research institutes, interviewed more than a hundred activists, attended organization meetings with activists, and socialized with activists. I pored over personal, newspaper, and government archives in Amman, London, and Washington, DC. I incorporated insight from both Jordanian and foreign-funded public opinion surveys. This mixed methodology is well suited for analyzing as well as theorizing geographies of power and dissent, the spatial practices of protest and repression, interactions between protests and the built environment, and the political stakes of competing narratives about past, present, and future.

Because one goal of this book is to expose state techniques for silencing dissent, the voices of protesters and their activities are largely limited to what they do or say that is already within public view. This decision aims not to silence protesters or erase their agency; on the contrary, the analysis restores the agency of Jordan’s diverse population in shaping their political, economic, and social arrangements for more than 150 years. I also focus on what is already in public view at the request of activists in order to protect them from additional harassment and exposure to state repression of the sort examined in chapter 7.

Chapter 2, “Transforming Transjordan,” deploys the concept of spatial imaginaries to bring into view various political projects in the Transjordanian area before and during the British-led Hashemite colonial project. I adopt a scale and time frame that is sweepingly historical but zoomed out from the boundaries of modern-day Jordan in order to reveal regional patterns and contests over political authority for a period of many decades. Examining how political and social forces were mutually constituted through rebellions, repression, and accommodation, I show that the Ottoman, British, and Hashemite efforts to impose authority were met not with sporadic rebellions but with sustained resistance and proactive efforts to shape those imperial and colonial projects. I examine the emergence of the territorial state with a central administration, and its new spatial imaginary, from the standpoint of those inhabiting the Transjordanian area. This approach highlights the agency of various actors and the ways that they shaped emergent Hashemite rule. The analysis begins in the nineteenth century to identify the existing repertoires of claim-making and resistance, tracing changes in spatial imaginaries and geographies of power and dissent through the establishment of the independent state of Jordan in 1946.

In chapter 3, “Becoming Amman: From Periphery to Center,” I bring the scale of analysis down to the level of the city but maintain a long-term time frame to examine patterns of urban development and political resistance. I examine place-making in the city and trace the transformation of Amman from a seasonally inhabited town in the late nineteenth century to its establishment as the Hashemite capital in 1928, and how that transformation led to a restructuring of the political geography of the Transjordanian area whose profound effects would not be fully realized for two decades. Urban planning documents throughout the period convey the colonial spatial imaginaries of a planned and ordered capital, only portions of which were realized. I examine the massive protests of the 1950s and Amman’s rapid transformation through the Black September violence of 1970–71. I show how, as the growing capital became the new state’s economic center, a new fiscal geography relegated the existing East Bank towns to the periphery.

Chapter 4, “Jordanization, the Neoliberal State, and the Retreat and Return of Protest,” returns to the national scale to examine techniques of Hashemite state-maintaining in the wake of Black September. I explore the massive Habbit Nisan protests of 1989 through a spatial lens, showing how those protests marked a major juncture in Jordanian politics and introduced new spatial patterns of protest. Protests in the outlying East Bank governorates, which put some of the greatest pressure on the Hashemite regime, revived portions of the repertoires of early twentieth-century revolts, notably blocking roads and destroying infrastructure. In Amman, by comparison, the rapidly changing built environment reshaped the city’s own geography of protests, with new spaces developing highly localized protest routines.

In chapter 5, “An Ethnography of Place and the Politics of Routine Protests,” I bring the scale down to the microlevel, examining protests on a street adjacent to the Kalouti Mosque in West Amman. There, protests against the normalization of Jordan’s relations with Israel became so routine in the 2000s that they hardly seemed contentious at all. I present an ethnography of place to examine the microdynamics and temporality of those protests over the course of several hours, including how they alter the political atmosphere of the neighborhood. The spatial dynamics of routine protest and policing practices reveal that permitted protests can work to shore up the regime’s power even as protesters challenge government policies and maintain existing spaces for protest.

Chapter 6, “Jordan in the Time of the Arab Uprisings,” returns to a national level but with the timing and spread of the regional uprisings considered in tandem with protests in Jordan. I examine the gradual escalation of protests beginning with labor protests in 2006 through the violent repression of anti-austerity protesters in fall 2012. The uprising period saw shifts in protest repertoires as well as newly mobilized segments of the East Bank communities, forces that the regime scrambled to divide and weaken. I also examine the rise of the radical nativist movement that indexes Hashemites as outsiders, a serious problem for a regime that relies on support from East Bank communities. The escalating rhetoric of the period set the stage for increased public criticisms of the regime discussed in this introductory chapter.

In chapter 7, “The Techniques and Evolving Spatial Dynamics of Protest and Repression,” I examine the resurgence of protest in the mid-2010s, with attention to the most active sectors of protest as well as the evolving spaces and repertoires for protest—including virtual spaces. I explore how proximity to Amman enabled deeper connections between new groups of activists compared with activists residing farther south. I also show how a new tactic for East Bank unemployment protesters—marching on foot to the capital to demand jobs outside the Royal Court—entailed significant spatial and temporal innovations.

Chapter 8, “Protest and Order in Militarized Spaces,” returns to the scale of the city to show how securitization, neoliberal development, and the attraction of foreign investment affected changes to the urban built environment. Along with a building boom, Amman enjoys upgraded infrastructure that is militarized to provide the kind of “normal”-time stability—or at least the appearance of it—the regime needs to reproduce its authority as well as secure foreign investment. These diverse public and private projects have altered the possibilities for political protests, some intentionally and others unintentionally, by creating blockages, reducing the visibility of certain established places of protest, and rendering other spaces more exposed and visible for surveillance. Here I contribute an original typology to the small but growing literature on space and protest, one that examines the spatial techniques used by the state to weaken the potential impact of protests by creating material obstacles to protest in the built environment.

Chapter 9, “Protesting Global Aspirations,” ties it all together. I connect the evolution of Jordan’s geographies of power and dissent to regional and global geographies of neoliberal investment, military alliances, and policing and securitization networks. King Abdullah II has a vision for Jordan, one in which the Hashemites are responsible for leading the kingdom from its noble Bedouin, Islamic, and Biblical past into a modern, fast-paced, and cosmopolitan future. But as was true a century ago, Hashemite authority today is maintained not only with the support of East Bank communities but via tremendous financial and military assistance from external states and institutions—each with its own interests and agenda. While the regime struggles to realize its regional and global aspirations, protests across Jordan reveal large-scale opposition to neoliberalism and particularly its austerity policies. Although protests can work as a kind of negotiation between the regime and its constituents, the exchange is not only transactional. Protests also bring into view moral as well as material claims. And they reveal deep tensions over who is Jordanian and what Jordan is or should be, the stakes of which are the future of Hashemite political authority. This final chapter also examines Jordan’s location in regional and global security networks and its multiple training facilities for counterterrorism and riot police.

Let’s now see how and where people were protesting in the Transjordanian area some 150 years ago.


All translations are my own unless otherwise indicated.

1. Khubz, huriyya, ʿadala ijtimaʿyya!

2. Martínez 2018a: 176. See also Simmons for a study of protests around basic foods (water and corn) in Latin America (2017).

3. Ali and Jarrar 2018; see also Ghitis 2018.

4. Sawalha 2018.

5. The Union of Professional Associations distanced itself from the protests that spread after the first strike. Some Jordanians believe that it had received guarantees that its demands would be met. Ali and Jarrar 2018.

6. These events will be referred to hereafter as the Habbit Huzayran protests.

7. Ababneh 2018; Doughan 2019.

8. Italat lisanihi ʿala galalat al-malik.

9. Al-khatu al-hamra.

10. ʿAqd ijtimaʿi.

11. “Tribes” are not homogeneous entities, and degrees of affective connection among the “members” of these larger units vary over time and space; see chaps. 2 and 4 for more discussion.

12. Abu Sneineh 2018.

13. Quoted in Abu Sneineh 2018.

14. As Tarrow notes, Tilly’s definition of repertoires evolved from a list of tactics into “a set of cultural creations that both reflect structural developments and take on a life of their own. The latter occurs, for Tilly, as actors test the boundaries of the possible, elites respond to these innovations, new performances are refined and diffused, and new structures evolve out of these interactions. Performances are not only what people do when they act collectively; it is what they know how to do” (Tarrow 2021: 1893).

15. Wood (2000), for example, shows how insurgencies can be central to driving supposedly “top-down” reforms by incumbent elites.

16. Chenoweth and Stephan 2012; Chenoweth 2019.

17. Brownlee et al. 2015.

18. In coming chapters, I engage the rich scholarship on the uprisings that has moved away from this variation-finding and outcome-oriented approach.

19. McAdam et al. 2000.

20. To reflect pronunciation, hayyih and habbih are rendered hayyit or habbit when followed by a noun.

21. For example, see Assaf 2015 on the Balqa Revolt and the discussion about the Adwan Revolt in chap. 2 here.

22. Tilly 2008.

23. For example, Benedict Anderson 1983; Tilly 1985.

24. Chalcraft 2016.

25. Neep (2021) makes a similar case for examining state-making as beginning during the Ottoman period.

26. Lynch 2012; Abu-Rish 2012a.

27. Morton 2007; Cox and Nilsen 2014.

28. E.g., Scott 1999; Tilly 2000; Sewell 2001; Auyero 2003; Tilly 2003; Marston 2003; Martin and Miller 2003.

29. See the literature reviews in Leitner et al. 2008 and Oslender 2016.

30. D. Mitchell 1996; Mitchell and Staeheli 2005; Thrift 2006; Jessop et al. 2008; Nicholls et al. 2013; al-Nakib 2018; Hatuka 2018; Soudias and Sydiq 2020. These and others are discussed in coming chapters.

31. D. Mitchell 2018: 3.

32. Brenner 2019.

33. Thompson 1971. The notion of a “moral economy” of political dissent was further developed by Scott 1976, 1985.

34. Trouillot 1995: 2.

35. Trouillot 1995: 9.

36. Gibreel 2018a.

37. ʿAshrin sanna jalis, ma dhal la akhdhar wa la yabis!

38. Battalna nahki yaʿeesh, laysh namut wa inta taʿeesh? A variation is: Battalna nahki yaʿeesh, ihna namut wa inta ta’eesh! (We stopped saying “long live you,” we die and you live!).

39. Yaʿeesh jalalat al-malik al-muʿazam!

40. Diritna ʿurdunniyya qabl al-thawra al-ʿarabiyya!

41. The view of the Hashemites as foreigners to the Transjordanian area dates to their arrival in 1920; see M. Wilson 1987 and Brand 1995.

42. Davenport and Moore emphasize the need to take seriously the ways in which foreign actors—particularly the United States—have a major impact on the dynamics and trajectories of regime responses to protests in the region and indeed globally (2012: 709).

43. Geographers debate the concept of scale and an alternative “flat” ontology. See Marston et al. 2005; Leitner et al. 2008; and Brenner 2019. I find considerable value in multiscalar analyses.

44. Jessop et al. 2008.

45. Soss 2021: 89.

46. McAdam and Sewell argue that in the study of contentious politics, “certain temporal rhythms have been emphasized at the expense of others” (2001: 89).

47. Jordan markets for tourism several Biblical sites, such as the location on the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized and Mount Nebo, where Moses was shown the Holy Land.

48. A growing number of scholars have begun advocating for an increase in the number of ethnographic studies of contentious politics, which are particularly rich ground for theory building. See Tarrow 2021; Fu and Simmons 2021.