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Misrepresenting the Contextual and Idealising the Universal. How US Efforts at Democracy Promotion Bolster Authoritarianism in Jordan


Discussing the anā ushārik (Arabic for ‘I participate’) programme of the American National Democratic Institute (NDI) office in Jordan – one of the largest NDI democracy promotion initiatives in the Middle East – this paper seeks to analyse some of the ways in which external efforts at youth education and participation, despite their intentions, may actually come to reinforce authoritarian stability. It is demonstrated that US efforts at democracy promotion in Jordan attempt to reproduce what are deemed to be universally valid conditions for the occurrence of processes of democratisation, instead of adjusting to the specific political context of Jordan. Rather than challenging authoritarianism in Jordan, US efforts at democracy promotion only lead to the reconfiguration and actual strengthening of authoritarian structures of power in the country. Accordingly, the Jordanian regime is shown to be highly supportive of US democracy promotion interventions that identify a lack of knowledge, experience and civic mindedness among Jordanians as key barriers for processes of democratisation, as such a narrative is instrumental in redirecting blame for authoritarian stability away from the regime and to Jordanians at large. The paper argues that US efforts at democracy promotion in Jordan ultimately help in postponing a meaningful redistribution of power to a distant future. It is based on participant observation and qualitative interviews that the author conducted in Amman, Jordan.


Forschungsbereich: Others
Language: English