My dissertation explores how Iraqi migrants in Jordan confront obstacles to the ongoing viability of their form of life following war and displacement. Decades of American-led efforts to integrate both Iraq and Jordan into a regional subsystem of security and trade have rendered Iraq unlivable for more and more of its communities, while ensuring Jordan’s political and economic stability as a haven for surplus people and wealth put on the move by war. Based on fieldwork in Amman, a city populated mostly by migrants displaced by regional wars, I consider the practices and experiences of Iraqi migrants of different classes, sects, and backgrounds as they navigate the lengthy period of waiting for refugee resettlement. For these migrants, everyday life demands a practiced attunement to the vicissitudes of history, politics, and war. To better theorize the link between the lived experience of displacement and the forces that drive it, I ask: What intentions guide Iraqi migrants in their passage through Jordan? How do they orient themselves to the instability that could always unmake their best laid plans? And according to what intuitions do they navigate encounters with the many different national groups that populate Amman? The larger goal of this project is to shift the conversation on displaced peoples’ sufferings and hopes towards foregrounding migrants’ own situated perspectives on shifting configurations of the capitalist world system. To this end, I offer the following arguments: (1) Periods of indefinite waiting on an uncertain future are not a time when “nothing happens.” Iraqi migrants in Jordan are explicitly conscious that they are undergoing a process of dispossession, understood as the parting of a group from the means for reproducing itself on an ongoing basis. (2) This situation is lived through engagements with durable embodiments of value, such as buildings, status documents, food and drink, and even the labor-capacity of human persons. Analysis of everyday life reveals that these value-bodies (or commodities) mediate between experiences of displacement and the forces that drive it insofar as they are always both sensuous objects used to retain histories, extend relationships, and portend futures as meaningful moments in time and exchangeable bearers of homogeneous and abstract value that have been driven into commercial circulation. (3) As Iraqi migrants operationalize popular understandings of difference through techniques of “dealing” (ta’aamul) with other “kinds of people” (anwaa’ an-naas), materially-mediated relations between classes take the appearance of innate capacities and appetites inhering in ethno-national figures of labor and capital.




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