The Right to the City and Land Property in East Amman

Rand El Haj Hasan [1]

Jabal Al Joffeh, Amman – Rand El Haj Hasan

Jordan is a rather recently established nation that did not make use of architecture or urbanism during its nation-building process. As such, Amman is a city that was shaped mostly by migration waves; refugees have almost organically sculpted it. They gave shape to the cityscapes and the urban scenery, as they started building in its peripheries, which later became central neighbourhoods. Research on refugee camps has often helped in following the process of home-making. It is a meticulous work that brings out the architect in the refugee. In older camps, the state has often interfered over time and the built environment was rehabilitated as refugees integrated the city.

“City making” and “Home making” are two scales of analysis of the refugee’s knowhow in shaping their living conditions and stimulating their integration with the urban fabric. The refugees’ “City making” can be analysed through the study of neighborhoods made for and by the individuals recreating their communities in exile. As these neighborhoods grow and the state rehabilitates the unofficial camps, they become part of the city and give identity to its urban scenery. As the city expands in size, what was the periphery becomes the center and the camp becomes central to the city’s geography and history. Hence, local Jordanian typologies include inventions made by the city dwellers themselves.

The refugee camp, being a pretext for the state to intervene less in the area, turns into a zone of innovation where the inhabitants have no choice but to “make city” as they find fit. Due to the dense urban tissue, a sort of inward organic urbanism evolves and the inhabitants come up with their own facilities of collective space. Anthropological fieldwork, spatial mapping and specially adapted visual representation from Jabal Al Joffeh neighborhood demonstrate the means available for the marginalized neighborhood to create conviviality despite density. These urban margins composing vast surfaces of the city are what represent Amman as made by its migrants.

This research is based on interviews with inhabitants from different generations. Its latest phase covers Palestinian refugees in Jabal Al Joffeh neighbourhood, which is an informal refugee camp, a settlement that refugees improvised as they fled their hometowns. The fieldwork also covers the entire neighbourhood to include Armenian immigrants and Jordanian migrants coming from the city of Tafileh.

The objective is to map urban practices of the inhabitants and to understand their relationship with the city through their daily and seasonal practices. The mapping also includes a survey of spaces that compose the public space of the neighbourhood creating categories and typologies that help adapt to the density and preserve the local urban tissue.

So far, the research has generated findings on the evolution of the unofficial Palestinian camp, the impact of the camp on the rest of the city, the camp as a geo-localized identity of the refugee, and the specific typologies of the built environment of the unofficial camp.

El Haj Hasan’s research within the LAJEH network focuses on Amman as the result of the migration of different populations. It aims at reading the socio-political structure that emerges and is maintained, within specific neighbourhoods as the result of the identity of the geographical areas and not that of the nationality of origin of their inhabitants. It starts by following the history of different forced migration waves and aims at reaching an urban reading of the forced socioeconomic stagnation.


Photos taken by Rand El Haj Hasan are available here.

[1] Rand El Haj Hasan is an architect who studies the right to the city in Amman. She is pursuing her postgraduate studies in social science at the EHESS in Paris. She follows the impact of the major urbanism projects on the inhabitants in the popular residential zones.  She also conducts an anthropological research in the purpose of contrasting being a city dweller with being a citizen in a country of biased citizenship. The backbone of her current work is the right to property and how does land tenure affect the people’s rights and the relationship between the Ammanis and their city.


Reflections on the categories and genealogy of migration in the Middle East

Jalal Al Husseini

This document synthetises the work I have carried out within the third axis of the Lajeh program since its start in 2015.

My main interest has revolved around the integration policies elaborated by the Jordanian state to accommodate the various waves of refugees hosted in the country since 1948 within its nation-building endeavour. These include Palestinians (since 1948, 1967 and 2011), Iraqis (since 2003) and Syrians (since 2011).

My research has first sought to understand the making of “refugee policies”: how state authorities have responded to these different refugee crises in terms of admission and the granting of social, economic and political rights. To identify common patterns across these responses, I looked closely at various key humanitarian, socioeconomic and political criteria. These include: the tradition of hospitality and humanitarian concerns, short- and long-term economic and political opportunity cost analyses, and the official and unofficial positions of stakeholders on solutions to the refugee crises (on issues regarding return to the country/place of origin, and long-term integration in the host country or resettlement in a third country).

Through the analysis of the legal status and labelling procedures, as well as related issues like access to education and to the local labour market, it has also endeavoured to grasp the long-term, compounded, impacts of the refugee inflows on Jordan society. In so doing, it has attempted to uncover the Jordanian state’s relation to society, the way it understands and manipulates such notions as national identity, citizenship, nationality and nation-building.

One methodological concern has been to open the “black box” of Jordan’s decision-making process by identifying its various state and non-state actors. These involve internal actors such as the King and its Court, the government, its ministries and departments, the parliament, and civil society at large. External actors such as Jordan’s donor countries (mainly the USA and the EU) and international organisations (mainly UNRWA for Palestine refugees and the UNHCR and UN sister organisations for other refugee groups) have also shaped Jordan’s refugee policies, at both elaboration and implementation levels. Finally, the collective behaviour of refugees towards the policies and their coping strategies has also contributed to shape state agendas.

Jordan’s experience with refugees illustrates how refugee policies are ultimately the result of the confrontation of various internal and external interests, including geopolitical, that often surface during negotiations between the different stakeholders during the elaboration, the implementation and the evaluation of policies.

In particular, my research has addressed three key, and correlated, areas of refugee integration policies and politics alongside their discriminatory aspects:

  • Admission policies and the granting of specific legal status (documentation).
  • Access to primary, secondary and higher education, with a focus on the quality of the education provided to Syrian refugees in various governorates.
  • Access to the informal and formal labour markets. This field of research best illustrates the shift from the relief to the developmental paradigm.

The fieldworks I have carried out since 2015 have targeted various refugee groups:

  • 2015: The Syrian refugees- Education: Qualitative study on the education provided to Syrian children in Mafraq governorate, which is now inhabited by a majority of Syrian refugees; interviews and focus groups with parents and children.
  • 2015-2016: The Palestinian refugees from Syria: living conditions (within the framework of a quantitative survey organised by UNRWA).
  • 2016: The Syrian refugees: training and labour market issues; interview with the main institutional stakeholders.
  • 2017: The ex-Gazans – legal regime with focus on the analysis of the “ex-Gazan regime” in Jordan, including interviews with stakeholders and refugees and focus groups in Jerash (“Gaza”) and Marqa refugee camps, which are the main ex-Gazan gatherings.
  • 2017: Jordan-EU cooperation about the integration of the Syrian refugees in Jordan’s formal labour market. Meetings with EU and Jordanian stakeholders.

While focusing on Jordan, my research has also gained insight from looking at the experience of other Middle Eastern countries, like Lebanon, that have hosted similar refugee groups.

Women’s migratory trajectories and urban spatial practices in Amman and Paris

Daphné Caillol [1]

Sri Lankan women waiting for the bus driving them to their workplace – Daphné Caillol

Daphné Caillol’s research focuses on the women’s migratory trajectories and urban spatial practices in two areas, Amman and Paris. She focuses on the trajectories of female domestic workers in the city through their life experiences (residential mobility, work places, and leisurely pursuits). She analyzes the presence of racialized bodies in urban public spaces and their modalities, including the process of appropriation, negotiation, (in)visibility in urban public spaces. To do so, Caillol analyzes the transformation of material urban public spaces, but also perceptions, representations and emotions of female migrant workers in relation to their practices in urban spaces. It allows her to reconsider the links between spaces, emotions, social integrations, and the legitimacy of minority groups with a gender loop. By comparing Jordan and France, she aims to understand the differing processes of (in)visibility and appropriation of spaces within differing legal frameworks.

Context of the study

Gendered and racialized labor market

In Jordan, the domestic worker’s labor market is channeled and regulated through a specific system of agencies between the originating countries and Jordan. This system of employment agencies uses the criteria of gender, class and race to market women. According to the employer profile and needs, the agency will sell or market women using racialized criteria. Recruiting agencies play an important role in shaping employers’ perceptions of domestic workers. The agencies represent women and convey their marketability according to their nationality. This will impact not only their wages but also their experience in urban public spaces.

In terms of gender, women from Southeast Asia are over-represented in their migrant community in Jordan. According to the Jordanian Statistics Office, in 2009 among the 15,000 registered Filipino workers in Jordan, 90% were women. In contrast, within the Sri Lankan community the gender distribution is more equal: 40% of the migrant community are men and 60% women [2]. The gender division within the labor market creates an over-representation of Asian migrants in the figure of female, and this has an important impact on their experience.

In term of class, the agency in Jordan develops a clear racialized hierarchy of women domestic workers in asking a potential employer $4,000 (USD) for a Filipina worker compared with $1,800 (USD) for a Sri Lankan worker. The price hierarchy perpetuates the image of the Filipina as the “best nanny” for the upper class. This will impact where they work, but also their monthly salary. Agencies ask for two to three times more for a Filipina than a Sri Lankan or an Ethiopian. This wage discrepancy also indicates class disparities. If you have a live-in Filipina it is not the same significance as having a live-in Sri Lankan. In this way it displays the employer’s class. Filipina women are also employed by the upper class for their reputation of being smarter and more intelligent than others. This allows them to work in upper class families more readily than domestic workers of other nationalities.

This labor market is mostly generated by racial stereotypes perpetuated by the agencies. Agents often advise employers about the nationalities of domestic workers to better suit the families, based on stereotypes. They maintain that Filipina are smarter and more intelligent than others. Sri Lankans are reputed to be harder workers and less apt to demand independence and push for certain rights. For example: to demand a mobile phone or the freedom to go out on weekends. Ethiopians are more obedient. There is also discrimination linked to skin color. Filipina have the reputation to be more « clean » and « beautiful » rather than women with darker skin.

The identity of female domestic workers is clearly stated by different agents based on a hierarchy of power defined in terms of sex, class and race.

Migratory Framework

The Jordanian labor market for domestic workers is regulated through a sponsorship system called the Kafala. In this labor market each migrant has to have a Kafil. The Kafil must be the migrant’s employer and a national citizen. He is a ‘legal representative’ and an intermediary with local society, without who the migrant can not legally exist (Beaugé 1986). Under the Kafala system, the migrant can only work for her Kafil. In most cases, the Kafil, or employer, takes the migrant’s passport on arrival in the household to ensure that they do not leave before the end of their contract. In Section 4 of the Jordanian Law on Domestic Workers [3], the Kafil is also referred to as ‘householder’ and is obliged to ‘employ the worker in his permanent or temporary place of residence’. Conversely, Section 5 relates to the worker’s duties and states that the migrant shall ‘refrain from leaving the house without permission of the householder who must be informed of the worker’s whereabouts’. The consequences of this system for live-in domestic workers are potentially far more dangerous than for other workers, because of their total isolation in the employers’ house and their vulnerable legal status. Jordan however is the only Arab country to have labor laws that include domestic workers. These laws outline an obligatory day off for domestic workers and other obligations which the employers must follow. This representation leads to the development of a normative ‘live-in’ trajectory for women domestic worker that aims to limit their spatial and social presence by defining which body belongs where.

Sample of the research participants

My work focuses on the women who have passed from live-in to live-out working status.    Indeed, while the legal system aims to enclose them in the domestic sphere, migrant women manage to circumvent the norm to live outside their employer’s house. Three types of trajectories can be drawn up corresponding to three types of circumventions. I call this new position ‘circumvention’ as this is not a negotiation. Filipino women manage to completely bypass the situation of live-in imposed by the Kafala. It goes further than daily negotiation to access public spaces and social life. However, capacity for circumvention depends on daily practice of negotiation that has been developed in live-in position.

The first group is made up of live-out women who are living on their own but have only one employer who is their Kafil. Observation has revealed two sub categories. First there are women who negotiated to live outside of the household after several years as a live-in worker with the same employer. This came from the construction of ‘a tie of confidence’ year after year with their employer, which give them the capacity to negotiate their exit from the house. Second, a part of migrant women decided to leave their employer’s house after a two contract, even though they had a good relationship.

The second group includes women I call ‘freelancer-legal’. It corresponds to women who are living outside the employer’s house and legally work for multiple families. These women manage to have their passports returned after a live-in contract. In most cases, these women find a fictive Kafil. What I call a fictive Kafil can be defined as a national (Jordanian) citizen who gets paid to have two or three migrants under his name to be their employer on administrative paper (Kafil). A woman then has to pay around $700 (USD) per year to be a legal freelancer.

The last group corresponds to women “freelancer-irregular”: this group of women did not manage to get their passport back when leaving their first employer as live-in employees. The women included in this category are mostly those who could not go out during their stay as live-in workers.

In France, all women are freelancers, regular or irregular. The system of agencies exist for some nationalities such as Eastern Europe women. Otherwise, women are entering the country through irregular channels. Mostly there are no contracts for domestic workers and the law does not regulate their work. Women are more “anonymous” in Paris than in Amman, but some process are similar.

Research Questions

 To understand the modality of presence of racialized body in public spaces, I have several research questions:

  • How do some women domestic workers manage to develop capability / competencies to invest new spaces (social spaces, work spaces, residential spaces, public spaces) whereas other don’t?
  • How are bodies, spaces, and emotions a co-constructed process which impacts public spaces and urban interactions?
  • How are the different spatial practices of women migrant domestic workers organized in Amman?
  • What are the interactions of these women in public space?
  • What are the different forms of space appropriation for women?
  • How were the city and the daily practices within specific spaces perceived and experienced by migrants and locals?

Research process

 First fields trip in 2017

During my first field research trip to Amman in 2017, I conducted an ethnographic study by living with 5 Filipina domestic workers for 2 months. This allowed me to grasp their daily life in the city and to follow them in their daily movements and in their intimacy. In addition, I stayed 2 more months in Jordan where I conducted observation in public spaces and in other communities of female workers such as Sri Lankan, Ethiopian and Indonesian communities. I conducted 30 interviews and urban walks in the city to understand workers’ presence in urban public spaces.

Second field research in 2018

I am on my second field research where I tried to develop original methodology to understand the link between emotions and city spaces. As such, I have documented workers through videos and photos. It allows me to understand how integration within the city is related to space, body and emotions. My current challenges are to integrate emotions in my study and to assess the collection of information on these matters. I would also like to return to my ethnographic methodology.

[1]   Daphne Caillol is a Ph.D. student in Geography at the University of Paris VII. Her interests include gender studies, migration, feminist theory, mobility and urban studies. She holds a Master of Geography from the University of Paris VII in 2013 before completing a Master degree in Political Science at the University of Paris I in 2014. Caillol wrote two master theses: on the spatial practices of Filipina domestic workers in Jordan and on the reintegration of Ethiopian women returnees from Saudi Arabia. Following her graduation, Caillol worked at the International Labor Organisation (ILO), and at the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Addis Abeba where she worked on a project to protect the rights of female Ethiopian domestic workers throughout the Middle East. From September 2015 to August 2016 Caillol was employed as a Mixed Migration Officer at the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) in Abidjan before gaining acceptance into the PhD program at the University of Paris VII. Throughout her studies she will conduct research on female migratory workers in Jordan.

[2] Jordanian Statistics Agency, 2009

[3] Jordanian law, Regulation No 90/2009 of Domestic Workers, Cooks, Gardeners and Similar Categories

Photos taken in Amman by Daphné Caillol as part of Lajeh’s programme can be found here.