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Accepted paper:

Not about justice: anti-corruption law and the government of bureaucratic intimacy in Jordan


Yazan Doughan (Brandeis University)

Paper short abstract:

Rather than a quest for social justice, this paper argues that the criminalization of intercessory patronage in Jordan as a form of corruption, serves as a technology for constituting moral national subjects and governing bureaucratic intimacies.

Paper long abstract:

Upon joining the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in 2005, Jordan has moved to criminalize the widespread practice of intercessory patronage (known as wāsṭa) as a form of trading in influence, and hence corruption. Yet in the 14 years that have elapsed since, not a single case of wāsṭa corruption has resulted in a conviction. This paper investigates this discrepancy between the banality of wāsṭa, and its negative moral valuation as form of corruption, and between its criminalization and elusiveness. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and archival research at the Anti-Corruption Commission, court cases, codes of ethics, and the everyday practices of street-level bureaucrats, I argue that the criminalization of wāsṭa functions not to achieve social justice, as commonly claimed, but to universalize a particular understanding of human life and action centered around the concepts of "interest" and the "conflict of interest". Within this framework, "interests" emerge as a salient object through which bureaucratic intimacies are governed, and the national moral subject is constituted.

panel P103
The rise of technomoral governance: anthropological insights into value-laden scales of evidence