As the discourse of “Countering Violent Extremism” has become more prominent both within the Middle East and in talk about the Middle East, so too has the concept of moderation emerged as an apparent interpretive key to understanding the region and its most pressing political and theological debates. Yet if the definition of ‘extremism’ remains controversial, the concept of moderation is all too often taken to be self-evident—even as those with disparate political and religious convictions seek to lay claim to it. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Jordan, I trace the history and contemporary social lives of Arabic-language notions of moderation like ‘itidal and wasitiyya. I seek to map out how these terms have helped foster new forms of dispute and social control even as they have been taken up by secular and religious commentators drawing on a vibrant pre-existing textual tradition.
About the speaker: Geoffrey Hughes is a lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Exeter. His research explores how those living in the Middle East draw upon their own traditions as well as globally circulating technologies and discourses to remake the world around them. His first book, Affection and Mercy: Kinship, Islam and the Politics of Marriage in Jordan (2021) draws on over two years of ethnographic fieldwork to show how marriage has come to be a site of political struggle amidst a radically restructuring economic order, changing gender roles, and new technologies for large-scale population management. More recently, he has been studying how blood feuds are increasingly moving onto social media and how a ‘politics of accusation’ has become an increasingly prevalent dimension of global social imaginaries.