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The Bedouin in Jordan: belonging, precarity, and geopolitical vulnerability

Authors: Olivia Mason*, Newcastle University
Topics: Political Geography, Cultural Geography, Middle East
Keywords: Jordan, Bedouin, indigenous, state-building, exclusion, Middle East, walking, colonialism
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores how Bedouins in Jordan are entangled in postcolonial legacies of violence and current geopolitical vulnerabilities in the Middle East. Their nomadic existence was a problem to the newly created Jordanian state in 1946 as they were a population that moved beyond its borders (Massad, 2001). The Jordanian state project of legibility sought to sendentarise and control the Bedouin population through laws and practices. Similar to state practices of control and displacement seen in neighbouring Israel (see Kedar et al, 2018, Yiftachel et al, 2016, Amara et Yitfachel, 2014, Yiftachel, 2008). However, despite a growth in global critical scholarship exploring indigeneity, little research has explored issues of indigeneity in Jordan. This work builds on critical scholarship on the Bedouin in Israel to argue that new forms of identity building in Jordan and geopolitical vulnerabilities impact on the role Bedouin play within the Jordanian state.

Jordan’s Bedouin are increasingly being incorporated into state-building projects in Jordan in efforts to create a strong national identity to ensure Jordan’s stability. As such questions of belonging, precarity, and vulnerability become entangled through Bedouin lives. I explore two projects in Jordan that aim to engage Bedouin - a project to train Bedouins as climbing guides and the Jordan Trail – to query the precarious future of Jordan and the impact of Jordan’s colonial past on present-day identity formations. In sum, I outline the negotiation between the colonial past of Jordan and a future Jordanian state and identity amongst present-day geopolitical vulnerabilities.

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