Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2015

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



In Jordan, teaching is widely considered “the best job for a woman” because it is accommodating and culturally appropriate for a wife and mother. Public secondary schools and comprehensive (K-12) schools in Jordan are predominantly gender-segregated, with female teachers and staff serving as models of professionalism and womanhood for generations of young girls. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan faces rising youth unemployment and pressures for democratization, and has responded with the explicitly transformational Education Reform for the Knowledge Economy (ERFKE) to overhaul the centralized public education system. ERFKE’s curricular goals include multilingualism, technological fluency, democratic participation, cooperation and teamwork, critical thinking, and entrepreneurship. The rollout of ERFKE relies on teaching educators and staff new ways of thinking about women’s identities in the present and potential future of a democratizing monarchy.

This dissertation aims to understand how teachers at a typical Jordanian public school navigate the political, cultural, economic, and social changes in their society, for themselves and for their students, during their daily work of defining, transmitting, and assessing culture and truth. Based on fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork with public school teachers and teacher trainers in Jordan, I argue that the operationalization of education policy reforms relies on state actors to transform teacher sympathies in a way that makes state goals and visions of the future more sympathetic, emotionally salient, and persuasive reasons for action. I explore the ways institutional power constructs and reconstructs the culture of teaching by bringing to bear contributions of educational anthropology to theories of authority and the state. Specifically, I interpret interactions between teacher trainers and teachers to show how state social policy works in lived experience. More broadly, I question how individuals raised within a culture engage in cultural transformation and the ways in which this transformation can be authoritatively engineered.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

John Bowen

Committee Members

James Wertsch, Bret Gustafson, Kedron Thomas, Anne-Marie McManus


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