Syrian Episodes: Sons, Fathers, and an Anthropologist in Aleppo

Syrian Episodes: Sons, Fathers, and an Anthropologist in Aleppo

by John Borneman
     
 

When Princeton anthropologist John Borneman arrived in Syria's second-largest city in 2004 as a visiting Fulbright professor, he took up residence in what many consider a "rogue state" on the frontline of a "clash of civilizations" between the Orient and the West. Hoping to understand intimate interactions of religious, political, and familial authority in this

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Overview

When Princeton anthropologist John Borneman arrived in Syria's second-largest city in 2004 as a visiting Fulbright professor, he took up residence in what many consider a "rogue state" on the frontline of a "clash of civilizations" between the Orient and the West. Hoping to understand intimate interactions of religious, political, and familial authority in this secular republic, Borneman spent much time among different men, observing and becoming part of their everyday lives. Syrian Episodes is the striking result.

Recounting his experience of living and lecturing in Aleppo, Syria's second-largest city, John Borneman offers deft, first-person stories of the longings and discontents expressed by Syrian sons and fathers, as well as a prescient analysis of the precarious power held by the regime, its relation to domestic authority, and the conditions of its demise. Combining literary imagination and anthropological insight, the book's discrete narratives converge in an unforgettable portrait of contemporary culture in Aleppo.

We read of romantic seductions, rumors of spying, the play of light in rooms, the bargaining of tourists in bazaars, and an attack of wild dogs. With unflinching honesty and frequent humor, Borneman describes his encounters with students and teachers, customers and merchants, and women and families, many of whom are as intrigued with the anthropologist as he is with them. Refusing to patronize those he meets or to minimize his differences with them, Borneman provokes his interlocutors, teasing out unexpected confidences, comic responses, and mutual misunderstandings. He engages the curiosity and desire of encounter and the possibility of ethical conduct that is willing to expose cultural differences.

Combining literary imagination and anthropological insight, Syrian Episodes offers an unforgettable portrait of contemporary culture in Aleppo.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691128870
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
02/26/2007
Pages:
268
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xxix

Chapter I: P Aleppo 1

"Prayer is better than sleep" 1

Imad's Japanese Girlfriend 7

Farce 11

"I would rather have children than fly" 13

"Once you love deeply, you never forget" 21

"My father says he saves for me" 23

"As long as she gets along with me, she will have no problems with my mother" 26

"Do you desire your mother?" 29

Traffic, or the Normal Order of Things 31

Preparing to Teach 42

Administrative Pleasantries 43

"But we are homophobic!" 52

"So, what do you think of Muslims?" 62

"I'd like to be the next president" 68

"The religious people see this and hate it, but they cannot turn it off" 74

"God will tell us when we have to do something" 84

"Kiss Daddy! Kiss Daddy!" 88

Chapter II: P The Souk 96

"Come into my shop and let me take you" 96

"Do you have a brother?" 100

"Ossi oder NorMAL?" 103

The Souk's Logic of Exchange 107

Fathers, Sons, Brothers, and Inheritance 112

Dream Collector 115

Dream of the Mistress 117

"How great is my disappointment when I see my dreams breaking down" 119

"Every woman thinks I only want to sleep with her" 123

Cell Phone, Cassettes, String Underwear 127

"That is fieldwork!" 128

"A father, perhaps a brother" 130

Fathers and Sons 145

"It is a blessing" 149

The Rumor 153

Chapter III: P Syria 156

"These are my children" 156

Aleppian Food, in Public 162

Obtaining an Exit Visa 166

The Ba'ath Party 169

Student Radicals 175

Teaching Anthropology and American Culture 178

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 187

Wild Dog Attack 190

Chapter IV: P Reflections on Teaching and Learning in Syria 192

Pedagogy 192

Lectures 194

Films 196

Coda: January 2006 200

Further Reading 225

Index 233

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