Navigating the “Marriage Crisis”: Youth, “Waithood,” and Personal Honor in Amman

Lindsey Conklin, University of Chicago

“For my dissertation research, I am examining the role that personal honor plays in courtship and marriage practices in Jordan as youth are increasingly entering into “waithood,” a prolonged phase of adolescence stemming from the “marriage crisis.” As they are forced to postpone marriage and family formation due to unemployment and the high cost of marriage, how do Jordanian youth, particularly females, navigate their specific context where premarital courtship and relationships are forbidden? Using person-centered ethnography, I am focusing on how youth experience, relate to, and understand personal honor and “waithood” in the urban context of Amman, Jordan. This research will add knowledge to the similarities and differences of mental functioning across sociocultural contexts, while also illuminating the emerging developmental phase of “waithood.”

Thanks to the generous support of the Lemelson/Society for Psychological Anthropology Pre-Dissertation Award, I was able to conduct two months of pilot research in Amman during the summer of 2011. This research was vital because political upheaval forced me to change my field site from Damascus, Syria, where I had done my master’s research on the same topic in the summer of 2010, to Amman, Jordan. The award enabled me to establish a new network of contacts, learn the Jordanian dialect, and do pilot interviews and participant observation to see how the Jordanian context differs from the Syrian context. Specifically, I was able to explore whether the theoretical concepts of personal honor and “waithood” are experience-near concepts that resonate with Jordanian youth. The opportunity to conduct this pilot research will prove essential in writing up a successful dissertation proposal as well as obtaining funding for my dissertation fieldwork.”