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A project launched to collect narratives about WWI in Jordan

By Ahmed Bani Mustafa - Apr 23,2018 - Last updated at Apr 23,2018

Reenactment of the Great Arab Revolt fighters in Wadi Rum, 330km south of Amman (Photo courtesy of Jordan Heritage Revival Company)

AMMAN — A number of Jordanian universities and European institutes have launched a project to collect local narratives about the World War I period in Jordan, an official said on Monday.

The project will be implemented by the French Institute for the Near East (IFPO), the French Institute in Jordan, the Goethe Institute in addition to four Jordanian universities — University of Jordan, Yarmouk University, Mutah University and Al Hussein Bin Talal University — Abdul-Hameed Al Kayyali, Middle East Researcher and Historian at IFPO, told The Jordan Times.

In the first phase of the one-year programme, 16 students from four Jordanian universities will receive training in researching and recording oral history by an experienced anthropologist and a historian working with private archives and oral history, Kayyali told The Jordan Times on Monday.

In parallel, eight professors from those universities will participate in a workshop in order to prepare them for supervising the students’ field work and learning experience, he added.

"This intensive training will cover various methodological, practical and ethical questions related to conducting oral history research,"Kayyali said.

After completing the research, the narratives will be archived at the National Library of Jordan, according to the historian.

The project aims to focus on the social, rather than the military and political aspects of World War I and their implications on Jordan, which is a perspective that has often been neglected by academics, Dean of the Faculty of Archaeology and Anthropology at Yarmouk University Hani Hayajneh said.

"The project consists of collecting oral testimonies from Jordanians, who have heard stories from people that lived during that period," Hayajneh told The Jordan Times over the phone on Monday.

While oral history is mostly neglected in Jordan, Hayajneh said, it is a significant means to document and analyse the historical consciousness and the sense of identity of various social groups that lived during this period.

Furthermore, the use of oral history invites students to ask important questions about the sources used by historians in order to write social history, according to Hayajneh.

The overall aim is to constitute a pool of young researchers and to sensitise the younger generation about cultural heritage, said the dean.

During World War I, Sharif Hussein initiated the Great Arab Revolt against the Ottoman rule as head of the Arab nationalists and in alliance with Britain and France; his sons, the emirs Abdullah and Faisal, led the Arab forces, with Emir Faisal’s forces liberating Damascus from Ottoman rule in 1918. 

By the end of the war, Arab forces controlled all of modern Jordan, most of the Arabian Peninsula and much of southern Syria, according to the Great Arab Revolt's website.

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