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on 5 February 2004
This is surely the best work available on Jordan - a place that started as a modern British political experiment (shoring up imperial ambitions in the early 20th century) and somehow became viewed as a "country" or "nation" by many. Massad, a Jordanian, is always sympathetic about his subject and highly readable, and explains clearly why and how Jordan could and should be viewed as a "nation" despite its synthetic origins. He does at times use a sophisticated academic language (reminiscent of Foucault and other more arcane cutting edge theorists) and this indeed may be perplexing to non-academics, but he is always as concise and clear as possible and an elegant writer throughout. Particularly impressive is the immense amount of research, groundbreaking and in many cases the first of its kind to address archives on Jordan in this detail, which he somehow manages to use effortlessly. Particularly fun are sections on the invention of Jordanian "traditions" by British army officers - British generals lecturing their (presumably bemused) conscripts on what "being an arab" really means, and imposing this in forms ranging from "new" "national" cuisines to "national dress" and even strict ideas on what constitutes "being an arab man"... and still somehow Massad makes you see how the PRODUCTIVE uses of the Army, Secret Police and the repressive instruments of State succeeded in coercing so many local arab people into accepting these seemingly deranged practises, and into publically declaring themselves "Jordanian". Massad argues (and in many cases indeed demonstrates) that this makes Jordan as real a nation as any other. A fascinating case study in social engineering, delivered by Massad with wit, much insight, and to rigorous academic standards.
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