What Does It Mean To Be Jordanian?

There was an interesting article in the Jordan Times yesterday about the “Cities and National Identity in Jordan” colloquium held by the French Embassy recently the included a roundtable discussion on what it means to be Jordanian.

Jordanian political analyst, Ali Kassay, said that Amman generates 80% of the country’s economic activity and as the country becomes more centralized the self-image of Jordanians and Ammanites will revolve around the city.

â??But this is where the crux of the issue falls, because almost no one is actually from Amman,â? he said, and told participants about the results of a focus group where he asked people living in the city how they respond to being asked about their origins.

â??When theyâ??re asked where theyâ??re from, if theyâ??re talking to foreigners they tell them theyâ??re from Amman. If theyâ??re talking to locals, they tell them the name of their village of origin… Life in Amman is seen by many as a transient condition,â? Kassay said. The focus group participants also said whenever they tell government or police officials that they are from Amman, this answer is never considered satisfactory and they are always pressed to reveal their â??true place of origin.â?

Despite efforts by the government through public relations campaigns such as the â??Jordan Firstâ? initiative in 2002 to strengthen national cohesion, the ethnic, social and economic diversity of Jordanâ??s cities is making hopes for one unified identity difficult to realise.

â??The formal definition of identity by the state is really the antithesis to a sense of national identity and urbanism,â? said Rami Daher, professor of architecture at the Jordan University of Science and Technology.

…Lucine Taminian, an anthropologist with the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq, agreed on engaging people of varying backgrounds who make up the population.

â??When we think of Jordan we often think of the state. But we need to look closer at the lives of everyday people,â? she said, and then asked, â??What does it mean to be Ammani? Is it the same thing for someone who lives in Shmeisani? For someone who lives in Wadi Al Haddada?â?

Itâ??s kind of strange to wonder what it means to be Jordanian, or who and what represents the country. Is it the bedouin, the Keraki, the Salti, the Ammani, all of them? It used to be difficult to reconcile the differences (or lack thereof) between a Jordanian-Jordanian and a Palestinian-Jordanian, but now with this economic transition I find it harder to reconcile the stark contrast between say a Keraki and a Ammanite or to a greater extent a westside Ammanite and an eastside Ammanite.

Is it geography, economics, loyalties, origins? What you wear, how you talk? Is it the people who say â??galâ? or people who say â??2alâ?? I can line up 20 different people that represent varying samples of â??Jordaniansâ? based on those factors alone and I donâ??t think itâ??s surprising that you can do this with almost every country in the world.

The truth is I really think that itâ??s more comprehensive; I think itâ??s a mix of both â??Jordan Firstâ? and â??We Are All Jordanâ?, the latter more than the former. Itâ??s not about being from the capital or economic center or a small village. I think itâ??s more about loyalties and the ability to share a common vision and objectives for the same country. These are the major elements of nationalism and identity and never are they more apparent than in a national tragedy. A people who go through a common tragedy tend to unite behind a common identity; itâ??s a sad way to define nationalism but I believe it to be true. And as the first anniversary of the Amman bombing approaches itâ??s something worth thinking about.


  • Well, for me to be Jordanian in my eyes you have to be a Nashmi, a Jordanian citizen who is not a Nashmi is not Jordanian in my eyes! A Nashmi can be rich or poor, educated or illiterate, young or old, religious or atheist, hell he might not even be a nice person.
    This might not be logical, but the way I see it that is exactly the point, itâ??s a feeling to me not a rational decision.

    I must be missed up!

  • amman is such new city n’t that old like cairo or damas or london so jordan, ppl still link period of living time and loyalty all jordan centerlize in amman so being ammani is like %90 of the image of jordan ,glad (aqaba is taking some good percents).. when ppl starts losing the link between time and place u well see e-w ammani like irbidi or ma’ani we r ppl proud of family name proud of origin village which both faces of same coin being ammani may n’t even happen cause amman it self east n’t like west so u will see for sure e-ammani w-ammani
    the idea of being jordanian is the most important focus on the whole pic
    proud to be jordanian

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