The Ghosts at the Feast: Contested settlement, land rights, and identity in the Jordanian Bādīya: Winner of the CNP Student Essay Prize 2020
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This article considers how enactions of hospitality, everyday politics and livelihoods in the largely sedentarised, but still discursively Bedouin villages south-east of Amman continue to be shaped by long, contested and intersecting processes of land settlement, sedentarisation and state encompassment. I combine a specific ethnographic encounter (a village feast and the anxious, tense talk about land that occurred at it) with a reading of history to show how ideas of settlement remain crucial, though contested, for understanding the positionality of former nomadic pastoralists in Jordan. I focus on how Jordan’s Bādīya – its arid and sparsely-populated eastern steppe – has been conceived of as a socially, politically and legally different, but encompassed, part of the nation-state. This discourse, I argue, has precedents in deep history and classical Arabic thought, but has taken on a particular form in the postcolonial and developmental state of Jordan.
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