Policing Disputes
: Power and Social Order in Jordan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis uses a study of the police in Jordan and their management of common grievances to demonstrate that the police, even in an illiberal setting, can be central to the process of constructing hegemonic consent. Most existing political science critiques of police forces in the Middle East focus on their coercive and disciplinary powers, emphasizing their role in repressing and observing the citizenry of states perceived to lack legitimacy, or on their corruption and usurpation of judicial powers, perceived as a result of inadequate civil oversight. While this can be justified by regional trends of
authoritarianism, it presents a distorted picture of state control. It also fails to address the importance of ‘low-policing’, where the police rely on alternative strategies of power to promote and realise social order, particularly in policing disputes between citizens. While dispute management in non-Western societies has long been of interest to legal anthropologists – largely due to the importance of societal actors in the process - it has been largely overlooked in contemporary police studies. Unlike orthodox criminological appraisals of crime control that render unproblematic the nature of state power, I contend
that the manner in which offences are handled by the police is deeply political, defining the state’s character and moreover the social order within it. In this context, Gramscian hegemony – interpreted as a process - is a productive way of understanding how social order is produced. I bring my theory to life in Jordan, a tribal society whose police force balances its longstanding delegation of dispute-resolution to societal actors, with more recent requirements to intervene more intensively into citizen’s lives. By analysing the seemingly mundane practices involved in the management of common offences, I offer
insights into how Jordan’s complex social order is constructed.
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorYezid Sayigh (Supervisor) & Claudia Aradau (Supervisor)

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