Why do political leaders engage in nation-building exercises when their societies already exhibit a coherent sense of national identity? Since ascending to the throne at the turn of the millennium, Jordanian King Abdullah II has launched a royal commission, panel, or committee just about every year – and in most cases, multiple bodies – nominally charged with strengthening the national sense of Jordanian identity. Yet, even the casual observer of Jordanian politics and society can perceive the growth of an organic sense of nation. Careful review of the case exposes the ways in which successive regimes have crafted high-profile nation-building reform agendas as a means of distracting attention away from their effort to promote more tribal and traditional identities, prevent the rise of a class-based society, and maintain the politics of patronage. This dissertation suggests that the royal promotion of key rural and minority groups and the institutionalization of once-informal royal patronage has been a response to increasing opportunities for contact in urban spaces between various ethnic, religious, and geographic groups and sectors. Such contact has allowed a national identity to begin emerging systematically and organically, but "official" programs that rely on traditional (especially rural, tribal, and parochial motifs) undermine this sense of Jordanianness.
The modern formalization of patronage simply continues a history of royal divide-and-conquer politics favoring minority communities, and the instrumentalization of identity has given the regime the cover needed to appear to be liberalizing, on the one hand, while really inhibiting the emergence of a national identity on the other. This dissertation explores how and in what ways political reform initiatives adopted by regimes paradoxically help to sustain autocracy rather than open a path to substantive democratization — and explores the ways in which the mobilization and use of rural/tribal symbols and rhetoric, particularly in supposed "nation-building" programs, reinforce traditional cleavages, give regimes the capacity to reproduce their power, and stifle the rise of a democratic system. It uses quantitative onomastics, participant-observation, and secondary materials to argue an organic sense of nation has been developing, much to the chagrin of a crown eager to retain its authority while simultaneously appearing to be reformist.
|School Location:||United States -- District of Columbia|
|Source:||DAI-A 69/12, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Middle Eastern history, Political science|
|Keywords:||Deliberalization, Jordan, Liberalization, Nation-building, Political reform, Retraditionalization|
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