Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In the notoriously alienating, majority refugee city of Amman, Jordan, the arts have long served as a point of refuge. Through artistic institutions, artists built inclusive and tolerant community that they could not find in wider Amman. These uniquely liberal spaces were sometimes described as “bubbles” by artists and outsiders alike. However, over recent years, transformations in Amman’s creative sector have raised the political profile of the arts. The combined and interrelated impacts of growing international investment in the arts, the emergence of a popular “artistic neighborhood,” and municipal investment in spectacular art and design festivals aimed to position Amman on the global stage, have moved Amman’s art scene into a position of substantial political and artistic influence. Politicians and planners for instance, now frequently refer to Amman’s growing artistic neighborhood as an image of the city’s liberal, cosmopolitan future. In this paper, I explore how visions of tolerance and inclusivity, developed within the liberal “bubbles” of artistic institutions, are projected outwards to stake a claim on the future of Amman. How does artistic spectacle become a site where the city is reimagined? Who is included or excluded from this spectacle? And how does that transform everyday life in Amman?