Accepted Paper:

Resisting reforms, reimagining citizenship: university student movements in Jordan, 2007-2016  


Daniele Cantini (University of Halle - Wittenberg)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses the university as an institution enabling the possibility of critique. I introduce the reforms promoted in the past decade, then what I consider the most significant movement resisting them, the national campaign for students rights, Thabahtoona (“you have slaughtered us”)

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on more than a decade of ethnographic research on the University of Jordan, the biggest and oldest university in the country, the paper discusses some of the ways in which the university as an institution becomes a crucial space for enabling the critique of existing orders, at different levels. While I discuss them at length in my book "Youth and Education in the Middle East", here I concentrate on the reforms that have been introduced in the past years - partial privatization of the public university, changes in admission criteria, resulting in exclusion of many strata of the society - and on movements resisting them.

The university in Jordan has a relatively long history as a space in which opposition forces have some possibilities of expressing themselves. In this paper I do not focus on political opposition nor on the resurgence of violence on campuses, despite the relevance of these phenomena, but on what I consider the most interesting attempt at using the language of the institution to resist and subvert the reforms. The national campaign for students rights, thabahtoona (literally "you have slaughtered us"), have been a vocal advocate for the dignity of the students, and the freedom and autonomy of the university. Its importance is not limited to its struggle within the university, but it is important at the citizenship awareness level since it discusses the place of a proper education as a fundamental right, seeking to transcend identity politics.

Panel P041
Higher education and transnational academic hierarchies: anthropological work in/on the academic periphery