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Jean Hannoyer
Seteney Shami


Jean Hannoyer et Seteney Shami

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1The research programme, whose initial results are published here, grew out of an encounter between two projects : Seteney Shami’s work in urban studies begun several years earlier, and the determination of CERMOC (the French Center for Research and Studies on the Contemporary Middle East), to study its host city where it had been newly established. Amman appeared relatively unexplored by the world of research and it seemed all the more important to put it on the map of academic studies as the role of the city in regional politics was becoming increasingly prominent.

2Over a period of nearly two years, S. Shami organized a series of seminars and public conferences at CERMOC, which simultaneously encouraged researchers to engage in original fieldwork on the city. In time, others were located who had previously done research on Amman or who had work in progress.

3The primary objective of the three-day conference, organized at the conclusion of the CERMOC meetings (June 1993), the papers of which we present here, was to bring together the largest possible number of those, particularly in the social sciences, who had taken Amman as the focus of their work. A distinctive trait of the conference was indeed that it included not just established researchers but students engaged in their first urban fieldwork.

4This book also reflects the organization of the conference with some minor unavoidable changes.

5The first section presents innovative approaches to the history of Amman, showing clearly the need for a new evaluation of the received wisdom concerning the beginnings of the city, its social evolution and its relationship to the new state whose capital it was eventually to become.

6Sections II and III provide essential context for understanding present-day Amman: they discuss its spatial characteristics and population structures through a critical appraisal of available data. As the city and its inhabitants struggle to adapt to each other’s needs, the rapidly changing contours of Amman challenge easy assumptions and quick generalizations.

7The fourth section presents ethnographic studies of everyday practices, discourses and social relations that structure the lives of some of the inhabitants of the city. Spatial proximity, relations of community and urban identity articulate with one another in complex configurations.

8The fifth and sixth sections combine the macro and micro levels through analyses of political and economic processes that structure the distribution of resources and space in the city, outlining some intended and unintended consequences of urban policy. External and internal factors, institutional and administrative practices all inform the ongoing negotiation over space, land and housing.

9In spite of the wealth of data presented in these papers, there remain many topics about Amman that could not be addressed here, whether due to the lack of researchers or of basic statistics. Perhaps more importantly, the papers do not deal in a major way with the links between Amman and other cities of the region, or with comparative issues.

10It was in recognition of this gap that contributions were sought from discussants with research experience in other cities of the region. Their role was not so much to present or criticize the papers of each section, but rather to situate Amman in a wider regional context.

11We would like to think of this meeting around Amman as just the first of many to focus its attention on the city, and one which will stimulate further research to fill the many existing gaps in our knowledge about Amman. We count first and foremost on the various Jordanian universities and the new generations of students being trained there. We would like at the same time to encourage their elders to publicize their personal memoirs, papers and experiences before they are lost to posterity. In this context, it gives us great pleasure to announce as we go to press, the recent publication of the novelist Abd el-Rahman Mounif’s book on Amman, a project we believe our conference had a modest role in helping, not, of course, to inspire but to bring to fruition at this time. Finally, we hope that dialogue and public debate over Amman will go beyond academia and reach a wide audience. An encouraging sign for the fulfilment of this hope is the convening in the spring of 1995 of the so-called “second” Amman conference, organized by the New Jordan Research Center in collaboration with the Municipality of Amman.

12Finally, we would like to thank all those who helped to make the work presented here possible:

  • the Jordanian authorities for facilitating CERMOC’s activities in the framework of French-Jordania agreements on scientific and cultural cooperation.

  • the University of Jordan and its Departement of Architecture, co-organizers of the tree-day conference, for generously providing facilities and services,

  • the Municipality of Greater Amman for its encouragement and general assistance to researches,

  • ESCWA (the Economic and Social Council for Western Asia) for its contribution to the debate and for helping a number of researchers attend the conference.

  • the cultural section of the French Embassy in Amman for its support in preparing the conference,

  • all participants, translators, speakers, discussants and session presidents for their contributions. We should mention here, in the order of their appearance, Rocks Ben Zayd al-Uzayzi, Kamal Jaluka, Ja’far Tuqan, Riad Tappuni, Hisham Zagha, Thurayya Ubayd, H.E. Abdul Rauf al-Rawabdeh for presiding over the different panels, and Luc Barbulesco, Adnan al-Bakhit, Jean-Luc Arnaud, Huda Zurayk, Michael Gilsenan, Nabil Beyhum and Jean-Charles Depaule for their role as discussants. Grateful thanks also to M. J. Bisharat for his generous hospitality at the gathering that concluded the conference.

  • all those who worked faithfully to prepare this first international conference on Amman and this publication, B. Mermoud for secretarial assistance, A. Amawi and E. Tampier for editorial revision, Aïda Ben Maraqa for typing sections of the manuscript, Anne Louis and Gaby Melki for the final shaping of the book.

13In the name of them all, we want finally to thank the inhabitants of Amman whose warm welcome to the researchers never failed in spite of their often difficult circumstances.

Amman, 1995

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