Narratives of Ethnicity and Nationalism: A Case Study of Circassians in Jordan by Nour Abu Assab

PhD thesis, University of Warwick, Department of Sociology (2011).

This research is an exploration of ethnic narratives of the Circassian community in Jordan, in addition to the nationalist narratives promoted by the state of Jordan, and their reconstruction by the research participants. This research aims to understand how the research participants, as non-Arabs, understand and makes sense of the Pan-Arab ethnonational narratives promoted by the state through the ‘Jordan First’ nationalist campaign and textbooks of national and civic education. It also seeks to understand the ethnic narratives of the Circassian community. It highlights the fact that ethnic narratives are often contextualised, and come to light always in comparison to the other. It also shows how ethnic narratives are gendered,
can include or exclude women, and gender relations are ethnicised, or in other words used as markers for group boundaries.

The main aim of this research is to unpack the research participants’ conceptualisations of Jordan and the Pan-Arabism, and to understand the strategies they use to include themselves within these narratives. It intends to evaluate whether research participants see themselves as integrated into the Jordanian society or not. Whereas the community itself is often portrayed as integrated into the society, because many of them are in high governmental positions, and the ceremonial guards of the Royal Family are the Circassians, it is also important to examine whether they believe that they are, and how. This thesis contributes to the literature on ethnicity and nationalism based on a minority with unique profile, and also contributes to the overall body of literature on state nationalism in the Middle East. The research has been approached through the use of both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods. It is based on the analysis of textbooks of national and civic education, and the ‘Jordan First’ campaign, in addition to 13 interviews and 62 questionnaires.

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