José Ciro Martínez, “States of Subsistence: The Politics of Bread in Contemporary Jordan” (Stanford UP, 2022)

In 1974 the government of Jordan established a new ministry to oversee a nationwide scheme to buy and distribute subsidized flour and regulate bakeries. The scheme sets terms for the politics that are the subject of a new book: States of Subsistence: The Politics of Bread in Contemporary Jordan (Stanford University Press, 2022). Rest assured, this is no dull account of state welfare that posits and tests for a two-dimensional relationship between the delivery of a staple food and public acquiescence to authoritarian rule. Far from it! To explain these politics, José Ciro Martínez goes to work baking, and taking the reader through kitchens, byways and marketplaces. Via descriptions of bakers and regulators, and interviews with consumers and policymakers, he offers a sophisticated account of how the state meets the stomach in Jordan, and how both citizens and bureaucracy are changed through this intra-action.

States of Subsistence was the winner of the 2023 Roger Owen Book Award, sponsored by the Middle East Studies Association, and singled out for an honourable mention by the 2023 Charles Taylor Book Award committee of the American Political Science Association’s Interpretive Methodologies and Methods Group.

If you like this episode of New Books in Interpretive Political and Social Science then you might also be interested in Mona El Ghobashy on Bread and Freedom: Egypt’s Revolutionary Situationor Gerard McCarthy on Outsourcing the Polity: Non-state Welfare, Inequality and Resistance in Myanmar.

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