Developing Renaissance: Nahda Discourse in Jordanian Humanities Textbooks
Schank, Alex Richard
This analysis addresses the subject of nahda, or renaissance, in Jordanian history, civics, religion, and literature textbooks from the 1970s to 2009. "Nahda" is a keyword in the textbooks signifying both the historical period of Arab modernist thought and nationalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the Jordanian state's present-day national development. The textbooks use the language of nahda to portray the Hashemite king as Jordan's historically qualified and legitimate leader. Nahda operates in nuanced ways across the genres. History and civics textbooks reflect "nahda as national development" in which the Hashemite kings are the primary actors in history and leaders of a comprehensive societal renaissance. Religion and literature textbooks, meanwhile, rely on "nahda as intellectual ideal" in which the state is hesitant to co-opt the ideals of pan-Arab and pan-Islamic unity because they exceed the territorially bounded Jordanian nation-state. These portrayals of nahda in the textbooks are coercive in the sense that they seek to preserve monarchic power by reducing Jordanian citizens to the loyal subjects of a progress-oriented king who not only raises their material well-being, but serves as the model for their civic virtue, tolerance, pluralism, and piety.
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