Christa Salamandra's A New Old Damascus: Authenticity And Distinction In Urban PDF

By Christa Salamandra

"[F]illed with infrequent encounters with Syria's oldest, such a lot elite households. Critics of anthropology's style for exoticism and marginality will have fun with this examine of upper-class Damascus, an international that's urbane and cosmopolitan, but in some ways as distant because the settings during which the easiest ethnography has routinely been done.... [Written] with a nuanced appreciation of the cultural varieties in query and the way Damascenes themselves imagine, discuss, and create them." -- Andrew ShryockIn modern city Syria, debates concerning the illustration, upkeep, and recovery of the previous urban of Damascus have turn into a part of prestige pageant and id building one of the city's elite. In subject eating places and nightclubs that play on pictures of Syrian culture, in tv courses, nostalgic literature, and visible paintings, and within the rhetoric of ancient upkeep teams, the assumption of the previous urban has turn into a commodity for the intake of visitors and, most crucial, of latest and previous segments of the Syrian higher category. during this vigorous ethnographic examine, Christa Salamandra argues that during deploying and debating such representations, Syrians dispute the earlier and criticize the present.Indiana sequence in center East experiences -- Mark Tessler, basic editor

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Sample text

As a value subject to dispute, authenticity, like so much else in contemporary Syria, is in a constant state of transformation. It now connotes a self-conscious choice between cultural forms presented as genuine and those dismissed as spurious. Both a tactic and a prize in the agonistic contests for symbolic and material power that shape the lives of the Damascene elite, “authentic culture” is the stuff of social distinction in contemporary Syria, and lies at the heart of arguments over who is perceived to rule, who once ruled, and who no longer rules.

Social dissolution and cultural breakdown are no longer viewed as inevitable results of urbanization. More recently analysts have pointed to continuities between village and city life. Janet AbuLughod’s work described the “ruralization” of Cairo, as large migrant populations changed the character of many working-class neighborhoods (1961). “His Family Had a House in Malki” 31 The integration of rural migrants into urban life has continued to occupy urban geographers, sociologists, and anthropologists, particularly those who work outside Western industrial societies.

The city is also referred to as al-Sham, “the North,” a term that once connoted both Damascus itself and the entire Ottoman province of Syria, the bilad al-Sham (the Lands of Damascus). Sham has become a less formal and somewhat emotive term, one often preferred by Damascenes themselves, particularly those involved in the nostalgia movement which will be discussed in following chapters. In colloquial Arabic, Damascenes are referred to as shuwam (sing. shami). A number of fanciful-sounding derivations are given for the name “Damascus,” Dimashq, the term preferred for formal and academic usage.

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