2012/04/28 Leave a comment
Daniel T. Rust
Dr. Soraya Altorki
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