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Accepted Paper:

Caught in a Tangled Web: Transnational Family-Making from Jordan  

Author:

Eda Pepi (Yale University)

Paper short abstract:

When a key interlocutor died, her family reached out online to question the circumstances of her cancer. This paper traces the challenges and ethics of doing ethnography under surveillance, thinking through 'conspiratorial talk' and uncertainty as a mode of inquiry in and beyond 'the field'.

Paper long abstract:

The Jordanian government cites national security as a reason for refusing to rescind its gender-biased nationality law that forbids women, but not men, from passing their Jordanian citizenships to children they have with foreign spouses. Jordan maintains that changing the law would open paths to citizenship for Palestinians and imperil their "right of return" to a future Palestine. Children of Jordanian women married to foreigners become immigrants, and those of women married to noncitizen Palestinians become stateless. Noncitizen youth and their Jordanian mothers have mobilized the activist movement "My Mother is Jordanian, and her Citizenship is My Right" to contest policies that have made the marital choices of potentially all Jordanian women a matter of national security. In 2015, the leader of this activist network and my key interlocutor died suddenly from cancer. But state narratives about national security and the Jordanian secret police made her family question the circumstances of her cancer. Her stateless children reached out online to ask me whether they should administer a black-market drug in case her death was being orchestrated by government doctors. But if she was dying from cancer, the drug would make her end even more painful. When I suggested that this was a decision for the family, her children insisted that they had "whatsapped" me because I was family. In this paper, I reflect on the challenges and ethics of doing ethnography under surveillance, thinking through 'conspiratorial talk' and uncertainty as a mode of inquiry in and beyond 'the field'.

Panel P097
Staying Tuned - Connections Beyond 'The Field'