Table of Contents:
In the first decade of the 21st century and before the “Arab Spring” of 2011, it was primarily the Iraq war post-2003 and the violent escalation in the Palestine conflict after the second Intifada 2000 which “radiated” beyond their boundaries, thereby strongly impacting political changes within and beyond the Middle East: Globally, the Iraq war manifested the declining world-political influence of the U.S. under President Bush Jr. and regionally, the Iraq war and the Palestine conflict contributed to the explicit polarization of inter-state relations as well as to the increasing multiplicity of relevant actors in the Middle East.
Beyond this classic-geopolitical perspective on the cross-border impact of the key violent conflicts in the Middle East, one can identify further, albeit often less visible dynamics which concern different local levels in the neighboring countries of the war contexts: The flight of over two million Iraqis, who settled in the urban centers of Jordan and Syria, shattered the social structures and led to partly massive counter-reactions of the “native” populations. Furthermore, one can observe indications of an Iraq-related war economy in parts of Jordan, Syria, the Gulf countries and Iran. The Palestine conflict and the Iraq war have also contributed to advancing the politicization of religious-sectarian and ethnic differences as well as the rise of a violent Sunni Islamism in the Middle East.
The dissertation thesis starts with the observation that the violent conflicts in Iraq and Palestine since the beginning of the 21st century have not only contributed to the re-configuration of global and regional politics. Crucially, they have also strongly effected local power configurations in the neighboring Arab Middle East, without at the same time contributing to topple the authoritarian regimes at the respective national levels (at least until early 2011). In accordance with this, it is the guiding research interest of this dissertation to theoretically capture and comparatively analyze the dynamics between regional wars and local orders, a topic that has so far been widely neglected in Middle East-related political science.
The study thus pursues both a theoretical-conceptual and an empirical-comparative objective: Against the background of the dominant transitology and authoritarianism studies (ch. II), which are primarily criticized for their one-sided regime focus as well as their neglect to grasp the transforming impact of wars, a conflict-sociological analytical framework is developed (ch. III). This conceptual framework aims at capturing central aspects of local orders in the context of regional violent conflicts and, at the same time, at structuring the subsequent empirical analysis. Based on insights from the sociology of domination and conflicts, four analytical dimensions of local orders are central here: While the analytical dimension “territoriality” zooms in on the socio-spatial structuration of local orders, the dimension “sense-making” turns attention to the respective predominant identities. The analytical dimension “control of violence” addresses violent-based forms of domination of local orders and the dimension “material reproduction” focuses local-specific political-economic structures and dynamics.
The empirical-comparative objective of the dissertation is the detailed study of local orders in the context of regional conflicts in the Middle East – with an emphasis on two local orders in Jordan as the country between Palestine and Iraq: The northern, Palestinian-influenced capital of Amman is contrasted with the southern, tribally dominated provincial city of Ma’an. Against the background of two chapters on war and conflict dynamics in the Middle East in general (ch. IV) as well as on the history and political structures in Jordan (ch. V), the main empirical focus of the study are the three heuristic case studies on Amman in the context of the Palestine conflict (ch. VI.1), on Amman in the context of the Iraq war (ch. VI.2) and on Ma’an in the context of the Iraq war (ch. VI.3). All three case studies are structured in parallel along the four analytical dimensions of local orders. Following these detailed case studies on the internal differentiation of local orders, which draw on insights from two field research stays in May/June 2006 and 2007 and the interpretation of 43 interviews, three comparative perspectives are undertaken: between Amman and Ma’an, within Amman as well as between the analytical dimensions (ch. VII).
The findings of the heuristic case studies on Amman and Ma’an and of the three comparative perspectives justify the dissertation’s shift of focus on local orders in the context of regional violent conflicts (ch. VIII). In addition to new insights regarding the single-case studies and thus to an discrete contribution to Jordanian studies, the case comparisons yield a number of hypotheses, which could be transferred to other studies in the future: First, it can be shown that the local order in the capital is much more strongly effected by intensity of the Iraq war than the southern province. Also, the two local orders increasingly develop apart over time. While the spatial differentiation of local orders should be maintained for future studies, comparisons should be undertaken between more similar case studies in order to receive better insights on the specific patterns and dynamics or local orders within the same violent conflict.
Second, the overall strongest effect of both the Palestine conflict and the Iraq war is on the analytical dimension of the “control of violence” in Amman and Ma’an. The relevance of the dimension of “control of violence” underlines an important finding of transitology and authoritarianism studies: the importance of the control over the means of violence for authoritarian regime stability. While the broader regime-centered research has shown this aspect for the national level, the case studies comparison in the dissertation highlights its relevance for the local orders inside Jordan. Future studies should more systematically bring these insights together to study the patterns of national-local entanglements.