Fida Adely: "Becoming Breadwinners? The mixed effects of women's labor migration in Jordan"

Departmental Seminar Series features Fida Adely, Academic Director for the  Arab Studies Program, Georgetown University.

The seminar is followed by informal gathering, at which refreshments are served. All are welcome!

Copyright:  Georgetown University.


One of the central development conundrums in the Arab world is the high rate of female education alongside relatively low rates of female labor force participation. Jordan best exemplifies this so-called “paradox” with among the highest rates of education for women in the region, alongside some of the lowest labor force participation rates in the world. In earlier work, I questioned the basic assumptions that framed women’s education as paradoxical, arguing that it rested upon quite narrow views about education’s purpose and effect. In this study, I consider how the decision by some women to migrate for work because of their educational attainment is an equally complicated and unpredictable trajectory. Based on ethnographic research with university-educated women who migrate from the provinces to the capital city of Amman, my paper will describe what motivates their migration and what broader factors (e.g., labor dynamics, neoliberal economic reforms, and demographic shifts) shape the context for their migration. In this regard, I will discuss at length the financial situation of these women as they set up “home” in the capital, and what financial obligations or expectations are created for and by them and their families over the course of their migration.  I describe how these economic relations are colored by professional status, job precarity, and debt. Finally, I consider the longer-term effects of their professional migration and consider what their migration reveals about shifting gender roles and expectations.

Research profile

Dr. Adely is an cultural anthropologist whose research interests include education, labor, development, and gender in the Arab world. Her primary research site has been Jordan.

Dr. Adely is a frequent academic lecturer and member of expert panels discussing cultural and educational developments in the Middle East and North Africa. She is the first holder of the Clovis and Hala Salaam Maksoud Chair in Arab Studies at Georgetown University.

In addition to numerous articles and book chapters, Dr. Adely has written a book entitled “Gendered Paradoxes: Educating Jordanian Women in Nation, Faith and Progress”. In this book Dr. Adely raises fundamental questions about what constitutes development, progress, and empowerment—not just for Jordanians, but for the whole world (University of Chicago Press, 2012).

Published May 30, 2018 3:32 PM - Last modified Oct. 5, 2018 2:36 PM