Displaying the state: visual signs and colonial construction in Jordan

Publication Date: 
April 2015
Theory and Society, April 2015

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How do colonial states make themselves known to their citizens? Drawing on sociological, post-colonial, and feminist theories, this article argues that colonial authorities make the state visible to its citizens and thereby establish its territoriality. The case of Jordan is considered as a prime example for the visual means of creating state ideological power through the cult of the Hashemite monarch. The origins and logic of this practice must be traced back to the British colonial mandate over the country that operated from 1922 to 1946. When in Jordan, British officials constructed state presence through a variety of methods including building desert forts, designing ornate tribal uniforms for the military, and showing the Jordanian flag in various areas throughout the country. The present account analyzes these and other instances of the display of state power through a reappraisal of the work of Clifford Geertz. This article identifies the foundation of the state-citizen relationship especially for new states in ideological power expressed materially.