Paper Machine

Citizenship is something designed. It describes the state between rights protected and rights denied. The threshold of citizenship is not a binary relation between one’s body and a territory: he is a citizen and she is not. In reality, there is complex terrain between the two positions, and its experiences are further conditioned by gender, race, and class.. The body who belongs is not enough. Rather, bodily claims to territory and nationality are mediated by a world of artifacts: biomaterial, paper documents, scanners, and other physical interfaces between people and governments. The governing apparatus does not always recognize its subjects on the appropriate side of a line projected onto sand. Belonging to the nation is an experience through materials; it wears on the body.

In the uneven textures between holding citizenship and being without it, women are especially vulnerable to exception and expulsion. Nationality codes that inherit the terms of jus sanguinis (“right of blood” instead of “right of the soil,” jus soli) confer nationality through patrilineal bloodline. Under such laws, women cannot reproduce citizenship; their blood does not pass as the material of belonging. In 25 countries around the world, jus sanguinis situates the body as a threshold of inclusion, a truth more certain than residency. But it continues to leave women out of the full protection of the rights of the citizen. When the paper document attests to the identity of its holder through paternity and nationality, women are challenged to present the proper evidence of their belonging. Women bear the immediate and existential consequences of being written out of the law, and the document enforces displacement.

This exhibition seeks possibility in counterfeits. It does not aim to produce papers that pass; but criticizes the very medium of national identity. The gallery wears the disguise of the passport office. Here, we examine the language of the law, legal documents, their methods of design and spaces of procurement. Does the identity document have capacity for inclusion? We respond to this question with unofficial tactics but great care. If the political subjectivity of womanhood is narrowly defined by the law, we must identify the techniques that design her citizenship. Somewhere between the bureaucratic interior of the Civil Status Department and the myth of blood-and-soil, Paper Machine creates a site of encounter with the contemporary apparatus of jus sanguinis.

feminist architecture collaborative (alt: f-architecture) is a three-woman* architectural research enterprise aimed at disentangling the contemporary spatial politics and technological appearances of bodies, intimately and globally. Their projects traverse theoretical and activist registers to locate new forms of architectural work through critical relationships with collaborators across the globe. Past and current projects are located in New York City, on the US-Mexico border, in the Amazon of Ecuador, in Jordan and in Lebanon.

This exhibition project was realised as part of the third phase of the Junctions program at The Lab- Darat al Funun (2019/2019), bringing together artists and cultural practitioners that look at the production and reproduction of a hegemonic gender space, and explore tactics of subversion and negotiation. From meditations on the role of myth and fiction and the simulation of buried histories, to interventions made on existing legal texts and the use of new media technologies, the multifaceted program evokes new forms of belonging that transgress normative frameworks and categories and address the intersectionality of gender, race and class. Accompanying discursive events carve up a critical space that moves beyond mainstream, neoliberal and neocolonial perspectives on gender relations, drawing instead on alternative discourses from the periphery.

Accompanying Events

Workshop: a nation is a thing that you hold

A magnetic ID card, a temporary passport, a birth certificate, a confiscated UNHCR card. What are the material artefacts of citizenship or its absence? How are they held? Citizenship continues to be understood in relation to the body’s legal belonging to a territory, eliding the complex, gendered, classed, and racialized experience often held in a suspension of citizenship. In 25 countries, 14 of which are members of the Arab League, the subjectification of the national citizen is a bloody matter, dependent on the proper circulation of paternal blood at the expense of maternal rights. In those countries, jus sanguinis (“right of blood” as opposed to “right of the soil,” jus soli) still excludes women from the full reproduction of citizenship by endowing only patrilineal bloodlines with the power to confer it. As the paper document attests to the identity of the body and its proper place—narrowed to the objective qualifiers of paternity and nationality—risk abounds when women fail to present the proper evidence of their own belonging. In Jordan, women who have a legal claim to citizenship are still denied legal guardianship of their children (except in specific cases); they face challenges when travelling outside the country with their children without a written consent from the father or grandfather, and risk automatically losing custody of their child if they remarry after a divorce. Amid these spatial and relational displacements, women bear the immediate and existential consequences of being written out of the law.

We invite you, the interlocutor, to partake in a workshop; a space production, attestation, and conversation. Facilitated by feminist architecture collaborative, the workshop involves two sessions as follows:

Day 01: Participants are invited to bring artefacts that define their belonging to the nation-state (their place of birth, their place of residence, the place they think of as home). These might be legal documents or reproductions thereof, family heirlooms, photographs, an object of personal interest. We will have a conversation around these things and their meaning. The second part of the workshop will entail rewriting existing legal texts, striking lines and introducing others that reimagine a kind of ideal citizenship law. Through these exercises, the workshop will culminate in producing novel forms of self-identification: new documentary artefacts of belonging. A video will be produced of portions of these exercises for the exhibition at The Lab.

Day 02: Participants are invited to take part in an informal conversation with f-architecture. This will be an occasion to speak through experiences with the participants and partake in a collective reimagining of belonging.

Talk: Women’s Activism in Jordan, Challenges and Problematics

This lecture by Suheir Al-Tal presents a critical overview of women's activism in Jordan and addresses its historical challenges: mainly looking at issues surrounding identity and ideological references. Al-Tal also speaks about the importance of formulating policies and political programs based on an analysis of present-day realities of Jordanian society.

Suheir Al-Tal is a writer and researcher specialised in feminist studies and human rights. She is the author of several books and publications, including "The Nationalist Movement and its Ideological Turns" and "Tarikh al-haraka al-nisa’iya al-urdunniya, 1944-2008 (The History of the Women's Movement in Jordan 1944-2008)."

Talk: Towards an Intersectional Perspective on Women’s Issues

Dr. Sara Ababneh and journalist Shaker Jarrar speak on the importance of moving away from ‘qadiyat al mar’a’ in the singular towards Jordanian Women intersectionality, addressing the perils of treating poverty as a separate issue or isolating it from women’s social realities. In this light, the speakers look closely at women’s participation in the Jordanian Popular Movement (Hirak) in 2011/2012 and the Day Wage Labour Movement, as well as the situation of female indebtors in the country.

“Jordanian women were an integral part of the Jordanian Popular Movement (al Hirak al Sha’bi al Urduni, Hirak in short) protests in 2011/2012. Yet, despite their large numbers and presence, female protestors did not call for any of the commonly known ‘women’s issues’ (qadaya al mar’a) which include fighting Gender-Based Violence (GBV), legal reform, increasing women’s political participation, and women’s economic empowerment. This paper argues that the protestors’ silence concerning most of the problems usually included in the list of ‘women’s issues’ raises the question of how prevalent these issues are (or not) in the lives of Jordanian women. Drawing on Foucault’s notion of discourse, insights from intersectional feminists and critical development studies, I argue that the composition of the Jordanian women’s movement on the one hand, and how these women conceptualize women’s rights discursively, as a result of how global discursive shifts were adopted in Jordan on the other hand, help explain why the list of women’s issues ignores the lived realities of most Jordanian women. In detail, I examine who participated in the Hirak and who did not. I seek to understand the absence of members of the Jordanian Women’s Movement through conducting a historical reading of this movement. In contrast, I study why women members of the Day Wage Labor movement participated in the Hirak. This contrast helps me think through what a list of women’s issues that includes national and communal issues might look like. The paper ends with recent developments in Jordanian women’s rights activism and asks whether intersectional understandings of womanhood are being considered.” – Dr.Sarah Ababneh.

Dr. Sara Ababneh is Assistant Professor at the University of Jordan’s Center for Strategic Studies. She is the head of the political and social studies unit. Dr. Ababneh earned her DPhil in Politics and International Relations from the St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford in 2010. Her dissertation topic focused on female Islamists in Hamas in occupied Palestine and the Islamic Action Front in Jordan. She was the Carnegie Centennial Fellow at the Middle East Institute at Columbia University in 2016. Dr. Ababneh’s research interests include class, gender and struggles for social justice and economic sovereignty. She has published on female Islamists in Hamas in occupied Palestine and the Islamic Action Front in Jordan. She has also worked on Personal Status Law reform. More recently, she has published on women in the Jordanian Day-Wage Labor movement and the popular protests of 2011/2012 and 2018.

Shaker Jarrar is a writer and editor at 7iber. He finished his master’s degree in sociology from the University of Jordan in Amman, where he studied the situation of daily workers in the Jordanian public sector.

Lecture Performance: Exploring Gender and Belonging to the City

Based on ethnographic research in Amman, this lecture by Hanna AlTaher engages with performance and performativity of gender and citizenship in art spaces and everyday life. What is your personal map of the city? How do you navigate it? What does it mean to belong to a city? How is belonging or not belonging affected by the body and languages I/you inhabit? The lecture explores how gender and belonging shape the experience of citizenship. Specifically, the ways space and gender co-constitute each other in Amman and elsewhere to interrogate notions of fiction and real.