Akkash, Samer, Yawmiyyat Shamiyya: Qira’a fi al-Tarikh al-Thaqafi li-Dimashq al-‘Uthmaniyya fi al-Qarn al-Thamin ‘Ashar [Damascene Diaries: A Reading of the Cultural History of Ottoman Damascus in the Eighteenth Century], Beyrouth, Bissan, 2014, 350p.
Change is inescapable. As Ibn Khaldūn puts it, change is inherent in the nature of things and an essential feature of human existence. All human societies have, in one form or another, undergone, and will continue to undergo, processes of change that vary in nature, magnitude, significance, and timeframe.
Through a fresh reading of the cultural history of Ottoman Damascus in the eighteenth century, Damascene Diaries presents a new perspective for viewing and understanding the processes of modern change in this Arab-Ottoman context. Concerned primarily with the activities of daily life, the new perspective gives priority to social conditions (aḥwāl) over thoughts (afkār). Focusing on the socio-urban life as documented in a range of popular diaries, Damascene Diaries examines the processes of change in a phase that preceded the state of “awakening” (yaqaẓa), as commonly known in Arabic literature, and the associated reflective awareness of the modern.
Through ten carefully selected scenes, Damascene Diaries traces aspects of the early expressions of modern change in Damascus to give glimpses of the convivial and secular lifestyle that was cultivated by the Damascenes during that period. It shows how the secular was intertwined with the religious in urban life, and discusses issues concerning the growing spaces for social and religious freedom, such as social openness and the vibrant culture of recreation, the breaking down of social hierarchy, the challenging presence of women in the city’s public spaces, the widened margins for religious freedom, religious cohabitation, and even contempt for religion in public, and the emergence of the public sphere and associated new sense of religious rationalism.
The new reading of the cultural history of eighteenth-century Damascus Damascene Diaries presents aims to provoke a rethinking of the conventional makers-and-followers narrative of modernity, as well as the conventional timeframe of the emergence of modernity in the Arab-Islamic world.
The full Preface can be read here
Table of Contents
Note to the Reader 43
Scene. 1 “As Men Do”: On the Culture of Recreation and Social Openness 45
Scene 2. “Uncovered Faces, Let-down Hairs”: On the Freedom of Women 77
Scene 3. “May God not Let them Grow-up”: On Religious Freedom and Cohabitation 97
Scene 4. “Death is Easier than being a Pimp”: On Sexual Freedom 121
Scene 5. “The Great Celebration”: On the Notion of Jāh and Social Hierarchy 139
Scene 6. “Sa‘diyya Qādūn, Never Moves a Thing”: On Social Justice 161
Scene 7. “Two Pounds of Coffee by Way of a Gift”: On Public Freedom 187
Scene 8. “Shaykh Muḥammad, Hang this Pipe for me”: On Individual Freedom 213
Scene 9. “May God’s Curse be on you and your Grandfather”: On Contempt for Religions 235
Scene 10. “Do not Utter with What you Know”: On the Public Sphere and Religious Rationalism 255
Methodological Review: Old and New Urbanity 273
Arabic Sources 305
Non-Arabic Sources 311
Index (Arabic) 319
Table of Contents (Arabic) 333
Table of Contents (English) 338
Preface (English) 344