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

Overview

"Syrian Episodes, a novel and seductive mix of conversation, description, and interpretation, radiates happily from the small to the big picture. The dynamics of desire-of mutual attraction fueled by difference; of buying, selling, and collecting; of eating, living, teaching, and traveling in a new environment-structure each of the book's episodes. It doesn't avoid the anguish and risks of encountering people and persuading them to accept us. Simply put, Syrian Episodes comes at a good time to help give shape to ...

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

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Overview

"Syrian Episodes, a novel and seductive mix of conversation, description, and interpretation, radiates happily from the small to the big picture. The dynamics of desire-of mutual attraction fueled by difference; of buying, selling, and collecting; of eating, living, teaching, and traveling in a new environment-structure each of the book's episodes. It doesn't avoid the anguish and risks of encountering people and persuading them to accept us. Simply put, Syrian Episodes comes at a good time to help give shape to an anthropology that posits human encounters as a rich source of knowledge that the reading of texts, no matter how sophisticated, can't provide."—Abdellah Hammoudi, author of A Season in Mecca

"John Borneman's Syrian Episodes is an exquisite and compulsively readable account of a picaresque sojourn in Aleppo, Syria. The book raises the nervous matter of experience in anthropology, troubles the bad faith of much ethnographic intention, and develops an approach that refuses to patronize. This is one of the more exciting—and ethically and intellectually demanding—works of anthropology that I have read in years, and also among the most beautiful. There is no other book like it."—Lawrence Cohen, University of California, Berkeley

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Editorial Reviews

Chronicle of Higher Education
Vivid detail fills Syrian Episodes, a book startling in its frankness about the Princeton professor's friendly, frustrating, and even flirtatious encounters in Syria's second-largest city. . . . The author fulfills his early promise of an ethnography that is as much about others' questions as his own. Both intrigue the reader as one reads conversations about subjects as varied as God, sex, movies, George W. Bush, and the Ba'ath Party. Drawing on his experiences at the souk, and the university, Mr. Borneman tells the stories of young men, some oppressed by paternal authority, some adrift without it.
— Nina C. Ayoub
New Republic - Martin Peretz
First of all, the book is gorgeously written. Second, it is the anthropology of experience rather than the anthropology of abstruse theory.
Chronicle of Higher Education - Nina C. Ayoub
Vivid detail fills Syrian Episodes, a book startling in its frankness about the Princeton professor's friendly, frustrating, and even flirtatious encounters in Syria's second-largest city. . . . The author fulfills his early promise of an ethnography that is as much about others' questions as his own. Both intrigue the reader as one reads conversations about subjects as varied as God, sex, movies, George W. Bush, and the Ba'ath Party. Drawing on his experiences at the souk, and the university, Mr. Borneman tells the stories of young men, some oppressed by paternal authority, some adrift without it.
H-NET Reviews - Faedah M. Totah
Readers who are nostalgic for the orientalist tradition of encounters with the exotic other would enjoy this book, particularly given the accessible narrative style in which it is written.
From the Publisher
"First of all, the book is gorgeously written. Second, it is the anthropology of experience rather than the anthropology of abstruse theory."—Martin Peretz, New Republic

"Vivid detail fills Syrian Episodes, a book startling in its frankness about the Princeton professor's friendly, frustrating, and even flirtatious encounters in Syria's second-largest city. . . . The author fulfills his early promise of an ethnography that is as much about others' questions as his own. Both intrigue the reader as one reads conversations about subjects as varied as God, sex, movies, George W. Bush, and the Ba'ath Party. Drawing on his experiences at the souk, and the university, Mr. Borneman tells the stories of young men, some oppressed by paternal authority, some adrift without it."—Nina C. Ayoub, Chronicle of Higher Education

"Readers who are nostalgic for the orientalist tradition of encounters with the exotic other would enjoy this book, particularly given the accessible narrative style in which it is written."—Faedah M. Totah, H-NET Reviews

New Republic
First of all, the book is gorgeously written. Second, it is the anthropology of experience rather than the anthropology of abstruse theory.
— Martin Peretz
H-NET Reviews
Readers who are nostalgic for the orientalist tradition of encounters with the exotic other would enjoy this book, particularly given the accessible narrative style in which it is written.
— Faedah M. Totah
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Vivid detail fills Syrian Episodes, a book startling in its frankness about the Princeton professor's friendly, frustrating, and even flirtatious encounters in Syria's second-largest city. . . . The author fulfills his early promise of an ethnography that is as much about others' questions as his own. Both intrigue the reader as one reads conversations about subjects as varied as God, sex, movies, George W. Bush, and the Ba'ath Party. Drawing on his experiences at the souk, and the university, Mr. Borneman tells the stories of young men, some oppressed by paternal authority, some adrift without it.
— Nina C. Ayoub
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691158037
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2013
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

John Borneman is professor of anthropology at Princeton University. His books include "Death of the Father: An Anthropology of the End in Political Authority" and "Settling Accounts: Violence, Justice, and Accountability in Postsocialist Europe" (Princeton)

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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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