Book Evaluation: A New Old Damascus

Daniel T. Rust
Dr. Soraya Altorki
ANTH 312-01
08 Jul 2009

Book Evaluation: A New Old Damascus

            In A New Old Damascus, Christa Salamandra brings innovative analysis to the English speaking world about the complexities of Damascene culture in the 1990’s. She observes the classes of Damascus, how they interact, and more specifically the ‘Old Elite Damascenes’. Unique perspectives are given from both the outsiders as well as the Damascenes. The concepts are multilayered yet written in a flowing dialogue that makes complex ideas simple for Westerners to understand. This book review will explore several aspects of this work: the time period of which data was collected, the anthropological methodology used, the evidence given, any generalizations made, and the theoretical significance.
The time period in which Salamandra observed Damascene culture was from 1992 to 1994. She returned for a month from February to March of 1996, and returned intermittently from 2002 to 2004 from her new base in Beirut, Lebanon. Damascus in this time period was quickly adapting to a more modernized and globalized world. Nondescript condominiums were sprouting in was referred to as the ‘New City’. Cars were becoming more popular, leading to a need for bigger roads, ones that were not present in the ‘Old City’. Although television was becoming more popular, it had not reached nearly the fever pitch of popularity it had assumed in the West. Tensions due to this modernization of the city would only be raised as Salamandra returned in later years.
The methodology used by Salamandra in her collection of information involved making friends with her informants. She describes how some anthropologists of the time, especially women, refer to their informants as friends in their final published works. Due to the combative and competitive nature of women in Damascus, they would in time treat Salamandra as one of their own Read more of this post

Sociopolitical Vulnerability in the Balkans

Daniel Rust

9 April 2012

Dr. Timothy Knowlton

ANT 200 C

Sociopolitical Vulnerability in the Balkans

     This paper seeks to identify possible links between two variables: levels of sociopolitical development in certain Balkan regions and their vulnerability to outside forces.  The peoples and regions being observed are Croats, Bosnian Muslims or Bosniacs, and Montenegrins, listed in geographical order from left to right.  Despite the Montenegrins being closest to Turkey, and therefore to the Ottoman Empire during its time of expansion, they were the last to fall and first to regain independence.  This falls under the Outline of Cultural Materials subsection 621, Community Structure, which focuses on things like whether they live in ‘settled villages or subdivisions, local subdivisions of the community, population, area of territory, local pride,’ and as previously mentioned, ‘sociopolitical and economic structure and organization’ (Murdoch  et al 2004).  Therefore, the research question is: To what degree is the sociopolitical and economic development of these Balkan groups tied to their vulnerability to the centralized foreign powers of the Ottoman Empire and/or Yugoslavia?  The hypothesis is that the level of community structure, defined mainly in as sociopolitical organization and economic development as well as local pride, determines how likely states are to be defined and ruled by foreign powers. Read more of this post

Forecasting a Future Iran (based on Clark’s Target-Centric Approach)

There’s a lot of uncertainty when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program and relevant intelligence collection is nowhere close to where it needs to be.  As such, Iran is a good candidate to create target-models out of.  Lots and lots of target models, with different outcomes.  This is because ‘when uncertainty about the state of the model is high, then new information is accorded high value in prediction; when uncertainty about the forces acting on the target is high, then prediction uncertainty is high’ (Clark, 185).  In the image below, I’ve tried to put together a ‘predictive model’ as outlined by Clark in the form of a ‘Kalman Filter.’  It and the rest of this post draws heavily from Intelligence Analysis: A Target-Centric Approach, by Robert M. Clark.  My image leaves out the arrows present in his book, indicating the forces acting on the target that either remain the same, change, or multiply.  In part because they wouldn’t fit, but also as a kind of metaphor for if we had a complete picture of the program, how different the model might look with all the arrows of unknown value enacting force on Iran’s nuclear program – pushing it either towards greater or lesser capability.  Perhaps there’s a changing force of moderates in the IRGC gaining traction, combined with a lessening of relative power in the more extremist views of Khamenei and his deputies.  The more we know about these arrows and forces acting on the program, the more we know where it actually is and the better we can determine the proper course of preventive action. Read more of this post

Article Review: Why and How States Open Frontiers

My review of Why and How States Open Frontiers by John Hickman, Associate Professor of Government at Berry College

Why and How States Open Frontiers examines the purposes and relevance of territorial frontiers in international politics today.   Read more of this post

G+ ‘Curator’ –>More traffic

This morning I noticed on my WordPress hits that a few had come from search results, and one from ‘plus.url.google.com.’ Then it hit me. Given the lack of ‘curators,’ or people who basically re-post news publicly on G+, and the obvious advantage of ‘search plus your world’ over non-indexed FB or Twitter data, a large opportunity exists. ‘Curators’ can even be added to the droid app ‘Currents,’ where they can be read just like Smithsonian or Lifehacker. This would seem to be a much easier way to funnel traffic to a site or blog vis-à-vis keywords/tags than the existing WP ‘freshly pressed’ system. Thoughts? Read more of this post

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