Tribalism and Power in the Sanctioning of Sexual Harassment: A Qualitative Study from a Jordanian University Open Access

Robbin, Zoe (Spring 2019)

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The fallout of the #MeToo movement has prompted a global reckoning with institutional power structures and the positions of women within them. The movement has focused on sexual harassment within schools, workplaces, and on the streets. Following incidents of harassment, there is widespread recognition of the barriers many women face during help-seeking and reporting. However, there is a lack of research discussing the specific bases of organizational power that enable a climate of tolerance towards harassers. This study attempts to address this gap in the literature by focusing on institutional responses to sexual harassment at a Jordanian university. Specifically, this study focuses on the mechanisms through which tribal organizations modify the bases of power within Jordan, and how this power impacts the sanctioning of sexual harassment on campus. To answer these research questions, this study applies French and Raven’s model of the Bases of Social Power to the results of six focus group discussions with students at a Jordanian university (French and Raven, 1959). French and Raven’s model of social power enables an analysis of the relative impacts of tribal power and institutional sanctioning on harassing behavior. This study finds support for the conceptualization of tribal affiliation as a modifier of social power. In addition, the results provide evidence that harassers rely on coercive, referent, and legitimate bases of power, while potential targets may rely exclusively on coercive power. Tribal power was also modified by gender, suggesting that gender also functions as a form of legitimate social power. Based on these results, I provide a recommendation for policymakers and institutional architects to increase protections for sexual harassment survivors during the reporting and sanctioning process. Because the negative implications of help-seeking are often social, this may center around the provision of platforms and safe spaces for student activists to organize and train together. I hope this analysis of organizational power will benefit policymakers across the globe as they seek to cultivate institutional climates that are conducive to gender equity. 

Table of Contents

Introduction. 8

Chapter 1: Tribalism and Power in Jordan. 12

1.1 Tribes in Jordanian History. 14

1.2 Tribes and Political Parties After 1989. 20

1.3 Framing Tribes as a Pillar of Civil Society. 23

Chapter 2: Women in Modern Jordan. 26

2.1 Women in Tribal Law.. 27

2.2 Jordanian Women’s Organizations. 31

2.3 Women in Political Parties. 38

2.4 International Law and Women. 41

Chapter 3: Women in Higher Education and Analysis. 45

3.1 Theoretical Background. 46

3.2 Methods. 54

3.3 Findings and Results. 56

3.4 Discussion. 61

Conclusion and Recommendations. 66

Appendix. 69

A.1 Analysis Plan. 69

References. 71

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