Uneven Desintegration and Fragmenting Development

Jordanian Special Economic Zones and the Question of Migrants’ and Refugees’ Integration


  • Stefanie Hürtgen Department of Geography and Geology, University of Salzburg, Austria
  • Maximilian Hofmann University of Vienna


Uneven development, labor regime, global production networks, special economic zones, glocalization, Jordan


In the global political economy, special economic zones are considered an established instrument for promoting social and economic “development” and recently also for refugee activation and integration. The Jordan Compact, a bilateral agreement between Jordan and the European Union adopted in 2016, represents an exemplary practical political implementation of this approach. So far, however, Syrian refugees` integration is meager. Extending the existing critique of the Jordan Compact, we propose to bring in an uneven and fragmenting development perspective. We in particular focus on the global production networks of the textile and garment industry and the working and living conditions in their Jordanian special economic zones. Referring to current debates on global production and labor regimes, and with a strong empirical focus, we underline the need of a multiscalar or glocal political-economic approach to the zones and we discuss their specific repressive labor regime, including the significance of transcontinental circular migration for it. We show how this zonal labour regime functions as a barrier to “integration” of Syrian refugees. Overall, we argue that contemporary fragmenting globalization produces uneven, non-substitive forms of socio-spatial disintegration, and that a break with the prevailing logic of “activation” and “development” is required.

Author Biography

Stefanie Hürtgen, Department of Geography and Geology, University of Salzburg, Austria

Assistant Professor, Research Group of Economic Geography



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How to Cite

Hürtgen, S., & Hofmann, M. (2022). Uneven Desintegration and Fragmenting Development: Jordanian Special Economic Zones and the Question of Migrants’ and Refugees’ Integration . ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 21(6), 677–692. Retrieved from https://acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/2107