The politics of higher education and the everyday life of students in Jordan and Egypt

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Daniele Cantini.

Daniele Cantini is a senior research fellow at the research cluster “Society and Culture in Motion” at the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg. His doctoral dissertation dealt with the Jordanian university system and its students. Currently, he is editing a volume on ethnographies of private universities.

This research takes the university as a vantage point to look at continuities and changes in the ways in which youth in Egypt and Jordan is socialized, citizenship is built, and differences are created and sustained. Both Egypt and Jordan witnessed a post-colonial nationalist and more or less socialist state, in which the function of the few state universities was clearly to serve the state in its efforts to modernise the country and its citizenry. This trajectory was ultimately altered in the ’90s, when the effects of the new international economic policies and the changes in the demographic composition of the countries contributed to erode the role of the state in providing employment and sense of belonging. These pushed for new directions in university policies–opening up to private universities, also of foreign origin, and partial privatizations within the public ones that were becoming less and less able to fulfil their roles. Through an ethnographic analysis of how the university concretely works, the project looks at this crucial institution to try to make sense of the most recent changes in its governance. Here the interest lies in understanding the different contexts, the local and the global, and their numerous intersections and conflicts. This project then looks at how all these affect the lives of youth. It explores in particular three dimensions of youth´s subjectivity, namely the political, the religious and the social (their place in the wider society as reproduced within the microcosm of the university campus and life).

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