Neoliberal reforms often have the effect of creating exclusions, but less addressed are the precise ways in which shifting practices of work and leisure have allowed citizens to reimagine their relation to the more desirable dimensions of economic liberalization. These include access to private commercial spaces such as malls and other locations where elite establishments are concentrated and to employment in the expanding sector of the service economy, namely, in high-end restaurants, bars, and exclusive nightclubs. Through a study of “aspiring cosmopolitans” in Amman, Jordan, I examine new experiences of negotiating social status and cultural codes in multiple locales. New sites of leisure allow some middle- and lower middle-class Jordanians to insert themselves into Jordan's (relatively) new cosmopolitan leisure economy—physically and sometimes also economically—in ways that entail self-conscious negotiations with sites of cultural production and cultural capital. These practices of representation can be described as crossings in spatial terms (from East to West Amman), in economic terms (from a lower to a higher social class), and in cultural terms (from working- and middle-class citizens to aspiring cosmopolitans). Without rejecting the critique that neoliberal economic reforms produce widespread and economically devastating exclusions and disenfranchisement, this article aims nonetheless to illuminate some of the ways in which lines of exclusion are being negotiated and challenged by some of those who might otherwise find themselves on the losing side of neoliberal promises.
Jillian Schwedler; Amman Cosmopolitan: Spaces and Practices of Aspiration and Consumption. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 December 2010; 30 (3): 547–562. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-2010-033
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