Geoffrey Hughes is an anthropologist whose research focuses on Jordan and the broader Arabic-speaking world. His research explores how family structures are either bolstered, contested, or re-made through the implementation of new technologies for population management like demography, finance, policing, and urban planning.
His dissertation, “Affection and Mercy: Kinship, State, and the Management of Marriage in Jordan,” combined village ethnography with institutional ethnographies of organizations that seek to remake people’s marital relations in the image of their broader social visions. Drawing on fieldwork conducted at Jordan’s government-run Sharia Courts, the Housing Corporation, and an Islamic NGO called the Chastity Society, this research shows how even these well-financed and self-consciously modern institutions have been repeatedly forced to accede to the prerogatives of extended kin groups. This has meant legitimizing the extended kin group’s authority over the labor, property, and sexual relations of their members.
He is currently developing a new research project centered on the politics of envy in contemporary Jordan. This project continues to track the construction and transformation of Jordanian institutions and their involvement in various antagonisms among kin groups, the state, financiers, and religious movements. During previous fieldwork he encountered envy repeatedly in the form of organized feuding, following the resultant social tensions as they migrated from Facebook to the streets to hospitals, police stations, insurance companies, and tribal councils. Emphasizing the constitutive role that Jordanians ascribe to envy in these conflicts helps to connect Jordanian ideas about the management of potentially dangerous forms of affect to the growing body of research on the effects of increasing global economic inequality.