Everyday Life in the Middle East

Everyday Life in the Middle East: A multidisciplinary study of urban integration and change in two neighbourhoods: Herrgården in Malmö, Sweden and Al-Thawra al-Arabiyya in al-Zarqa, Jordan.

Project financed by Lund University and located at the Center for Middle Eastern StudiesProject coordinators: Stefan Larsson, Vittorio Felci and Darcy Thompson

Purpose and aims

This project is conducted within the framework of Urban Transition in the Middle East and seeks to investigate everyday life in the neighbourhoods of Herrgården, located within the district of Rosengård, in the city of Malmö, Sweden, and Al-Thawra al-Arabiyya, in the city of al-Zarqa, northeast of Amman, Jordan. Although these two localities seem at odds with one another, upon closer inspection they share a number of commonalities. They are both “host communities” to multi-ethnic, primarily Muslim, immigrant populations, and they are both excluded spaces, both physically and socially, from mainstream society, suffering from several manifestations of neighbourhood marginalisation.

Local and national authorities in both cases have tried to mitigate the outward effects of marginalisation from the rest of the urban environment, namely the social volatility, by developing initiatives seeking to balance national and local identities, cultures and social cohesion. These efforts however, have failed to achieve the desired effects due to a variety of reasons at the level of policy design, implementation and the way these policies were received by local communities in terms of perception and practices.

This research aims to produce new insights into the very challenges of constructing the neighbourhood as a meaningful social space in the two localities under examination. By looking at the ways in which people interact with one another, as well as with their surrounding context and environment in everyday life in Herrgården and Al-Thawra al-Arabiyya, this study will explore the reflective relationship between neighbourhood and residents. To this end, the project will consist of a detailed study in five closely interrelated key areas.

1. History of the neighbourhoods

2. Urban change and sustainability

3. Integration, religion and the intersection of identities

4. The city's digital layers

5. Everyday entrepreneurship

The goal of this project is to collect a wide set of data and findings over a long period of time (4+4 years) that are to be collaboratively analysed by the project researchers in order to produce a robust body of knowledge. Its uniqueness is enhanced by the genuinely interdisciplinary approach adopted, that attempts to devise methodologies, scientific vocabularies and analytical frameworks that transcend disciplinary boundaries and enhance our horizons and by the comparative dimension inherent in the project. The project is uniquely placed to provide a better understanding of the processes of developing localized attempts to deal with similar problems in two otherwise not connected localities and more particularly:

  • to study how individuals interact with and make use of spaces, and structures in their everyday context,
  • explore how the interaction of people and place creates neighbourhood characteristics,
  • identify the ways in which everyday practices (in the marketplace, around worship and communal identity, offline and online) develop solidarities, shared horizons and inclusive and democratic millieux in urban spaces
  • inform practice and policy with new knowledge and perspectives

Policy relevance is key to the project as our intent is to produce academic knowledge that has clear practical implications in the field of political and strategic decision-making both in the Swedish as well as a Jordanian context.