University of Wisconsin - Green Bay


Research Council

Research
Success

Jill White

Jill White

Spring 2013

"Acquiring Arabic Dialect in Jordan"

Grant in Aid of Research


Spring 2011

"Identity Among Jordanian Youth: A Pilot Study"

Grant in Aid of Research

Final Report: "My trip to Jordan was highly successful, in no small part because of the funding I received from the Research Council. As planned, I met several families and began the process of building rapport. I deepened my relationship with several organizations and established new ones; I conducted participant observation in multiple locations and strengthened my Arabic (both MSA and dialect). As is often the case with ethnographic research, particularly in the early stages when one is just getting started in a new location, things did not pan out exactly the way I intended. Although I was able to establish a relationship with the non-governmental organization with whom I’d planned to work, I was unable to get their permission to go to parents to obtain the permissions I would need to satisfy the IRB here to engage in the kinds of camera-purchasing and picture taking I really had hoped to do. This organization has so many different funders that everything has to go through several layers of bureaucracy and approval, requiring several months. For example, the intern the organization specifically brought from Italy to go on fieldtrips was not given permission to go out with the field crew for three months after she’d arrived in Jordan! In terms of translation, it turned out not to be necessary to hire anyone for two reasons. First, because I conducted the bulk of my interviews in English. Second, I had several volunteers who offered to translate documents for me and refused to accept payment. I did what was culturally acceptable; I purchased coffee and tea whenever possible; I paid for small amounts of food when we were together, or brought small bakery items to gatherings. Providing receipts for such things is virtually impossible, although I do have a lot of receipts and am sure some of them are from those meals. I could reconstruct each meeting and write out an amount spent for some of the others. It seemed more efficient to provide one large receipt that more than covered the amount of the grant. After consultation with Ms. Nonn, I spent the Research Council funds on housing. The free housing I had been offered was outside of the city of Salt and made me dependent on others for rides into Amman for research. The GIAR made it possible for me to find relatively affordable housing in a hotel/apartment that was safe and near enough to bus lines that I could easily walk to where I could catch a bus to anywhere within the city. This enabled me to spend even early mornings observing children in the market place and to be at Center events by 8am. While analysis continues, I was able to learn a great deal about the importance of social class in the lives of young people. Families in Abdoun (the wealthiest part of Amman) and families in Jabal Nadith (one of the poorest) are living very different lives and have different child-rearing practices. For example, in Abdoun, children spend more time with their Philipina nannies than they do their parents. They often speak Tagalog before English or Arabic, and they are afforded all of the consumer comforts one would find in an American or Northern European household. Like those Western children, I observed Abdoun children interrupting their elders’ speech, whining for ice cream and being given it, and ignoring their parents’ requests. In other parts of Amman (and Jordan), I never saw a child interrupt adults when they were speaking. They wait patiently until an adult turns their attention to them and gives them permission to speak. Likewise, children from Jabal Nadith rarely, if ever, visit malls, but they do not whine for things in the marketplace. Children are treated very gently and with love, but they are also given direct commands and expected to obey. These are examples of the differences. I am very interested in the effects of the education reform. If all children will now be taught to question authority in school, how will this affect their behavior at home? Thank you very much for making this possible. I will be continuing this ethnographic research on the foundation you have made possible."