SAH Annual Conference 2021: Jordan is Palestine? Rewriting History Through Pedagogy and Space


A series of political conflicts, and the loss of the West Bank in 1967, weakened the Jordanian State and threatened its military might. In an era where government stability was essential to maintaining legitimacy and sovereignty, the weight of defeat lay heavy on the monarchy. Stability was further eroded by an increasingly diverse population, with Jordanians outnumbered by Palestinians so severely that the Israeli government declared, “Jordan is Palestine,” targeting Jordan’s decades-long sense of insecurity over a perceived lack of distinct Jordanian identity. 

In response, the Jordanian State wrote a post-colonial narrative for the Nation, strategically blurring distinct notions of Arab-ness and Jordanian-ness. Conspicuously absent in this narrative is Jordan’s Palestinian population, its culture and traditions, architecture and the historical impact of Palestinians on the nation. This erasure was further reinforced by municipal boundaries and regulations that excluded Palestinian refugee camps from service, imprinting a historical narrative of exclusion and separation onto the built environment.

This paper analyzes history curricula produced by the State for Jordan’s school system, outlining how Palestinian culture and practice is intentionally erased, subsuming the culture in favor of a newly established Jordanian identity to maintain stability. I argue that this erasure is a pedagogical technique deployed to intentionally invoke and imprint a “selected tradition” – a history rooted in a constructed past and manufactured collective identity. In order to examine the outcomes of this engineered history, I present a close reading of the architectural history of Amman in relation to urban policies that dictated its development. Based on a multilayered analysis of policies, the built environment and human actors, I conclude that not only did history curriculum effectively erase an entire sector of society, the method was put into practice in city planning, achieving the goal through the isolation of the Palestinian population.