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Cover of Protesting Jordan by Jillian Schwedler
Protesting Jordan
Geographies of Power and Dissent
Jillian Schwedler


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April 2022
392 pages.
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Hardcover ISBN: 9781503630376
Paperback ISBN: 9781503631588
Ebook ISBN: 9781503631595

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Named a 2022 Notable Book of the Year Award, sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy.

A National Endowment for Democracy Notable Book of 2022

Protest has been a key method of political claim-making in Jordan from the late Ottoman period to the present day. More than moments of rupture within normal-time politics, protests have been central to challenging state power, as well as reproducing it—and the spatial dynamics of protests play a central role in the construction of both state and society. With this book, Jillian Schwedler considers how space and geography influence protests and repression, and, in challenging conventional narratives of Hashemite state-making, offers the first in-depth study of rebellion in Jordan.

Based on twenty-five years of field research, Protesting Jordan examines protests as they are situated in the built environment, bringing together considerations of networks, spatial imaginaries, space and place-making, and political geographies at local, national, regional, and global scales. Schwedler considers the impact of time and temporality in the lifecycles of individual movements. Through a mixed interpretive methodology, this book illuminates the geographies of power and dissent and the spatial practices of protest and repression, highlighting the political stakes of competing narratives about Jordan's past, present, and future.

About the author

Jillian Schwedler is Professor of Political Science at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She is the author of Faith in Moderation: Islamist Parties in Jordan and Yemen (2006).

"Protesting Jordan offers readers of Arab politics and contentious politics alike a narrative of how protest shapes how states reproduce their power and, in turn, reshape protest. Jillian Schwedler blends a deep immersion in the Middle East with a firm grasp of contentious politics theory in this thought-provoking book."

—Sidney Tarrow, Cornell University

"Superbly researched, Protesting Jordan provides a fascinating and groundbreaking alternative history of Jordan. Jillian Schwedler skillfully unpacks and challenges traditional accounts of state-making in Jordan as a top-down process. An essential read for those seeking to better understand Jordan's history and how protests maintain state power."

—Janine Clark, University of Toronto

"Schwedler has crafted an extraordinarily rich portrait of the creation of Jordan and the fortunes of the Hashemite monarchy through the lens of those who contested its policies, its institutions, and sometimes even its very existence. In doing so, she demonstrates that protest has been a routine part of politics in Jordan since before the modern state was established."

—Lisa Anderson, Foreign Affairs

"It's not just the best book I've read about Jordan... but also one of the very best political science books I've read this year... Protesting Jordan should be a must read for scholars of the Middle East and of comparative politics more broadly, as well as for analysts, journalists and policymakers trying to understand the country's politics."

—Marc Lynch, Abu Aardvark

"[Protesting Jordan] gives a detailed and rich account of Jordan's social and political history, showing how repertoires of protest and repression created, transformed, and continue to afect state and society in Jordan. But the book is also written in a way that makes it essential reading for any scholar interested in protests, repression, and state development – not just in Jordan, but indeed anywhere else."

—Curtis R. Ryan, APSA MENA Newsletter

"Protesting Jordan is an important contribution to the study of protest. It is a cry and demand not only for scholars to carry on the critical work of studying popular struggle to illuminate its social significance but to forge novel approaches to understand the state, its political economy and urban form."

—Deen Sharp, APSA MENA Newsletter

"Schwedler's work pushes us to think about the effects of social movements above and beyond narrow conceptions of success or failure; the book traces and convincingly demonstrates the myriad ways that regimes learn from protest activity and deploy repressive state power through the construction (or lack thereof) of cities and communities."

—Summer Forester, APSA MENA Newsletter

"Protesting Jordan is a wonderful read and an ambitious model for writing contentious politics into political history. ... Schwedler is one of our field's great ethnographic writers, and her keen eye for meaningful details and almost-imperceptible shifts in power relations rendered this routine set of protests into powerful grounds for theorizing about the everyday work of contention."

—Chantal Berman, APSA MENA Newsletter

"Schwedler's approach is consciously interpretive and inductive....[A]nyone interested in interested in the relationship between popular opposition and state formation in Jordan will find a wealth of new empirical material and fresh analysis here."

—Laurie A. Brand, Middle East Journal

"Schwedler's scholarship shows how and why in-depth local knowledges are important: certainly to better understand local contexts, but also in order to reflect on 'generalist' scholarship and 'broader' theoretical debates."

—Andrea Teti, Mediterranean Politics

"Throughout the work, Schwedler challenges readers to rethink the politics of modern protests by interrogating their meaning under Jordan's authoritarian power structure. Protests are not static attacks on normality; they are frequent and normal expressions of commonplace struggles. They enable Jordanians to assert claims and challenge their regime's rules, but they also elicit autocratic responses. Protests represent frontiers where state power is exerted and negotiated and where the state itself becomes seen."

—Sean L. Yom, Middle East Research and Information Project

"In her sweeping new book, Protesting Jordan: Geographies of Power and Dissent, Jillian Schwedler highlights the centrality of protest to the perpetual cycle of making and unmaking state power in Jordan.... Schwedler provides a wonderfully novel, dialectical, bottom-up, and interdisciplinary way of reading a history of Hashemite statemaking."

—Hanan Toukan, Perspectives on Politics

"By examining protest, Schwedler presents the reader with a nuanced and detailed history of Jordan, revealing persistent discontinuities of power, numerous co-existing narratives with implications for the future, and spatial imaginaries—the ways in which people understand their shared social and political geographies.... This book is an example of what will hopefully be repeated in other country cases, as we peel back the myths and rhetoric of state leaders to examine how people live, what they care about, why and how they protest, what alliances they make, what movements can develop from those instances of protest, and how the responses of state leaders created the evolving form of the regime itself."

—Anne Marie Baylouny, Mobilization

"Rejecting top-down examinations of state power and repression, Schwedler presents a methodologically and theoretically innovative, meticulously researched, and elegantly integrative study of how economic and political protests in Jordan have both challenged and reinforced the Hashemite regime since its founding.... Highly recommended."

—B. Tavakolian, CHOICE

"Schwedler has written an immensely impressive book based on decades of research. It is replete with new and original insights about Jordanian politics and protests. As such, this book should be of great interest to scholars or advanced students with an interest in the politics of Jordan, of state/nation building, and of the spatiality of protest and government responses."

—Karen Culcasi, Political Science Quarterly