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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Ambiguous Citizenship: Protracted Refugees and the State in Jordan
by Frost, Lillian, Ph.D., The George Washington University, 2020, 458; 28088037
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation aims to resolve the puzzle of why states would adopt policies toward refugees that say one thing in law but do another in practice, asking what explains variations in the implementation of host state laws governing refugee group rights? I argue that competing pressures on executive political leaders can explain the implementation of a group’s rights better than existing arguments that attribute this outcome primarily to institutional weakness. I contend that when the most influential stakeholders for the executive leader’s political survival—e.g., the largest donor and strongest security leaders—have similar policy preferences, the leader can implement the law more easily: what I call coherence. However, when these actors’ preferences differ, the leader can placate both sides by allowing the policy’s law to please one side and its implementation to suit the other: what I call intentional ambiguity. In both scenarios, the law follows the stakeholder that is more external to the leader’s inner circle and to governing, while the implementation aligns with the stakeholder that is more internal.

This dissertation assesses coherence and intentional ambiguity in the rights host states grant to protracted refugee groups (PRGs) by focusing on the rights Jordan has granted over time to three Palestinian PRGs, i.e., those displaced to Jordan in: 1948, 1967 from the West Bank, and 1967 from Gaza. Comparing Jordan’s policies toward these groups over time enables me to hold alternative explanations constant, while closely tracking policies in law and practice. This analysis draws from over 800 British and American archival files I collected and over 200 interviews with ministers, security leaders, refugees, and others I conducted during 14 months of fieldwork in Jordan from 2016–19.

This dissertation reveals that gaps in implementation can reflect a political strategy—rather than institutional weakness—where leaders break apart a policy into its law and implementation dimensions to placate opposing influential stakeholders. This project also highlights the fuzzy lines between citizen and noncitizen rights in practice, and it analyzes refugee policies in the global south, while presenting findings that can help inform refugee policies in the global north.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Brown, Nathan J.
Commitee: Hale, Henry E., Lynch, Marc, Mylonas, Harris, Brand, Laurie A., Feldman, Ilana
School: The George Washington University
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 82/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Political science, Middle Eastern Studies
Keywords: Ambiguity, Citizenship, Jordan, Noncitizens, Policymaking, Refugees
Publication Number: 28088037
ISBN: 9798664790511
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