The Politics of Living (In)Security: Zaatari Village, Jordan

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The thesis explores how (in)security is lived in the rural refugee-host community of Zaatari in northern Jordan. Bringing into conversation refugees’ experience of living in rural Jordan and their everyday politics of security, the driving force of this project is to understand how (in)security is lived in ordinary life. Zaatari village provides a foundation from which to study a situated politics of living (in)security.
The thesis makes two contributions to existing debates. First, this research intervenes in debates in Vernacular Security Studies (VSS), and more broadly critical security studies. Studies in these areas analyse security predominantly as an elite practice by governments or international aid organisations, foregrounding only certain insecurities. This project challenges these limits to security knowledge to show how insecurities manifest differently in different contexts, and, in particular, in mundane life. The thesis critically engages the concept of the vernacular as used in VSS, in order to unlock both its conceptual and methodological potential beyond current usage. The methodological approach of this thesis, evolving from seven months of ethnography and participant observation with grassroots organisations, municipality employees and community residents, radically transforms the study of security to allow (in)securities to emerge from within everyday experiences and relations.
Secondly, this work contributes to the literature on urban refugees and the growing trend of refugees self-settling outside of refugee camps. Instead of focusing on camps, border zones or large urban settings, I focus on life in a village and how issues of protection and security emerge differently and constitute an understanding of refugeeness, identity and belonging outside of humanitarian logics. I interrogate the protection agenda underpinning current humanitarian governance with a particular focus on Jordan’s refugee response since 2011. Responding to this gap on refugee host communities, the thesis opens new lines of scholarship on refugees living in rural spaces and in so doing challenges the current methodological shortcomings present in security studies.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen Mary University of London
Award date30 Jun 2023
Publication statusUnpublished - 30 Jun 2023

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