Preserving the Old City of Damascus
Faedah M. Totah
"A highly revealing and engagingly written exposé on the powerful role of heritage in the construction, negotiation, and manipulation of cultural identity and cultural memory."—American Anthropologist
"Rich ethnographic data offering intimate insights into everyday life in pre-war Damascus make Preserving the Old City of Damascus a must-read not only for scholars working on identity, heritage, or urban change in the Middle East, but also for everyone with an interest in the Syrian capital."—Urban Geography
"The author’s sensitive and empathetic approach allows readers to appreciate how the complex interaction of investment capital, government policy, and local cultural attitudes influences the process of urban change in Damascus’s old historic neighborhood"—Choice
"Through nuanced, sensitive, and often touching portrayals of
Damascenes from all walks of life—from children and young men
and women navigating the streets, to energetic entrepreneurs intending
to capitalize on a transformative moment—Totah offers us
a unique perspective onto a city and a population undergoing rapid
change."—Jonathan Shannon, Department of Anthropology, Hunter College
"A rich, personal, ethnographic account of the gentrification
of one of the world’s oldest cities. Totah
narrates with passion the local processes involved
in the city’s current place making efforts and unlocks
the secrets of what she terms the divine protection
of its heritage."—Nezar AlSayyad, University of California, Berkeley
Faedah M. Totah is assistant professor in the political science unit at Virginia Commonwealth
Book Description »[Close]
One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and a major
cultural and religious center, Damascus is a repository of numerous civilizations,
ancient and modern, that embody the collective national as well
as Arab/Islamic memory. Although a protected UNESCO World Heritage
Site since 1979, the Old City only attracted the interest of investors toward
the end of the last century. The historic neighborhoods of greater Damascus
became the focus of private investment when the government encouraged
a more market-based national economy. Distinguished from other neighborhoods
by the large number of religious buildings, historic monuments,
and a wall with foundations in the Roman period, the Old City is important
for government efforts to promote heritage tourism as part of their entry
into the global economy.
In Preserving the Old City of Damascus, Totah examines the recent
gentrification of the historic urban core of the Syrian capital and the ways
in which urban space becomes the site for negotiating new economic and
social realities. The book illustrates how long-term inhabitants of the historic
quarter, developers, and government officials offer at times competing
interpretations of urban space and its use as they vie for control over the
representation of the historic neighborhoods. Based on over two years of
ethnographic and archival research, this book expands our understanding
of neoliberal urbanism in non-Western cities.
Table of Contents »[Close]
Introduction: Gentrification, a "Civilizing" Process?
1. Unlocking the Secret of the Old City
2. "Villagers Do Not Become Shuwam"
3. "I Am King in My Home"
4. "People Living in Houses Ruin Them"
5. "Khay! Now We Pay to Enter a Bayt’Arabi"”
6. "Who Has No History Has No Future"
Epilogue: Whither Syria?
View other books in our Contemporary Issues in the Middle East series
6 x 9, 328 pages, 16 black-and-white illustrations, notes, bibliography, glossary, index