Council on Anthropology and Education
Oral Presentation Session
Dealing with new realities imposed by globalization, economic liberalization, and a volatile labor market, youth in the peripheral town of Al-Rawda (pseudonym), Jordan, enroll in a myriad of private and non-for-profit, skill-oriented education programs in topics outside those of the established public schooling system. My paper discusses the changing roles of mothers in this educational environment. Mothers influence their children’s participation in these new programs, not only fulfilling caretaking and nourishing roles but also establishing themselves as leaders in emergent public spaces forged by the shifting educational milieu. The strategies of these mothers attest to the struggles education generates in a conservative and homogenous society. These struggles surface in different areas, including around established values and norms about education, unity in society, and the gendered involvement in public life. The issue of raising sons and challenging established conceptions of masculinity is particularly important in these struggles as mothers also navigate established tribal and religious norms, including around female public respectability. I argue that despite these challenges women achieve a visible and active public presence, one that is facilitated by the new models of education and the spaces that these new models create. I also argue that mothers play a central role in elucidating and making sense of the aims and possible outcomes of education. This process is oriented by the mothers’ own perception of the value of education, their familial experiences, social class (all of my respondents were middle-class), and their own aspirations and visions of their role in society.