Skip to main content

States of Subsistence The Politics of Bread in Contemporary Jordan with José Ciro Martínez & Ilana Feldman

States of Subsistence: The Politics of Bread in Contemporary Jordan

This is a hybrid event. Attendees may watch remotely via Zoom, or attend in-person at the Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E St NW, Room 505, Washington, D.C. 20052.


States of Subsistence: The Politics of Bread in Contemporary Jordan (Stanford University Press, 2022)

On any given day in Jordan, more than nine million residents eat approximately ten million loaves of khubz ‘arabi—the slightly leavened flatbread known to many as pita. Some rely on this bread to avoid starvation; for others it is a customary pleasure. Yet despite its ubiquity in accounts of Middle East politics and society, rarely do we consider how bread is prepared, consumed, discussed, and circulated—and what this all represents. With this book, José Ciro Martínez examines khubz ‘arabi to unpack the effects of the welfare program that ensures its widespread availability.

Drawing on more than a year working as a baker in Amman, Martínez probes the practices that underpin subsidized bread. Following bakers and bureaucrats, he offers an immersive examination of social welfare provision. Martínez argues that the state is best understood as the product of routine practices and actions, through which it becomes a stable truth in the lives of citizens. States of Subsistence not only describes logics of rule in contemporary Jordan—and the place of bread within them—but also unpacks how the state endures through forms, sensations, and practices amid the seemingly unglamorous and unspectacular day-to-day.


  • José Ciro Martínez is Lecturer in Politics at the University of York. He was previously Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. José's research explores the politics of food, welfare, drugs and political authority in the Middle East and North Africa, drawing on archival and ethnographic methods. He is committed to modes of political inquiry attentive to the seemingly ordinary and mundane. Building on more than a year working as a baker in the Jordanian capital, Amman, José’s first book, States of Subsistence, wrestles with theories of performativity to dissect the ways in which welfare provision (in the form of food) works to entrench the state in everyday life.