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Making Do in Damascus

Navigating a Generation of Change in Family and Work

by Sally K. Gallagher

Publication Year: 2012

Drawing on fieldwork that spans nearly twenty years, Making Do in Damascus offers a rare portrayal of ordinary family life in Damascus, Syria. It explores how women draw on cultural ideals around gender, re­ligion and family to negotiate a sense of collective and personal identity. Emphasizing the ability of women to creatively manage family relation­ships within mostly conservative Sunni Muslim households, Gallagher highlights how personal and material resources shape women's choices and constraints around education, choice of marriage partner, decisions about employment, childrearing, relationships with kin, and the uses and risks of new information technologies. Gallagher argues that taking a nuanced approach toward analyz­ing women’s identity and authority in society, allows us to think beyond dichotomies of Damascene women as either oppressed by class and patriarchy on one hand, or completely autonomous agents of their own lives on the other. Tracing ordinary women’s experiences and ideals across decades of social and economic change Making Do in Damas­cus highlights the salience of collective identity, place, and connection within families, as well as resources and regional politics, in shaping a generation of families in Damascus.

Published by: Syracuse University Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote, About the Author

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pp. 3-10


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pp. ix-12


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pp. xi-14

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pp. xiii-xvi

The fi rst time I landed in Damascus, I smiled when spontaneous applause broke out as the plane touched the runway. “Al-humdilla salama!” Thanks be to God for a safe arrival! Truly. Early that morning in the summer of 1992, I and the rest of those travelers were grateful to have arrived. Numb from lack of sleep on the day...

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pp. xvii-xviii

This research was supported by grants in 1992 from the American Sociological Association/National Science Foundation Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline and in 1993 from the National Conference on Family Relations, Feminism and Family Studies Section, Jessie Bernard Award for Outstanding Research...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-24

Su‘ad leaves for work at six thirty in the morning, walking ten blocks through congested streets to the microbus stop. It is already starting to get warm by the time she arrives at work an hour later, just in time to help open the workshop. When we met, she had been working in the shop for two years, doing cross-stitch and...

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2. The Arab Republic of Syria

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pp. 25-59

Syria is an ancient land. Its history goes back to the Sumerians who lived in the region more than fi ve thousand years ago. Located in the eastern Mediterranean between Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, it has been a center of trade and commerce for millennia. Damascus itself claims to be the oldest continually inhabited city in...

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3. Education, Expectations, and Opportunities

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pp. 60-104

I’m standing on the corner on a Tuesday morning waiting for the local microbus to swing by and take me to the camps to visit Abra and her family. It is only ten in the morning, but I’m already pretty warm—the skirt, blouse, and navy blazer that help me look the part of a respectable married woman are not what I’d normally be wearing...

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4. Engagement, Faith, and Family

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pp. 105-154

Wafa’ lives in a neighborhood made up of mostly second- and third-generation Palestinian refugees. Her parents’ families moved from Palestine to Golan in 1969 and from Golan to Damascus in 1973. Shortly after that, her mother married her cousin. She was thirteen. Wafa’ is the second oldest of eight children. She attended the local school through the tenth grade, but then her father became ill, and she dropped out to help her mother...

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5. Cutting the Melon

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pp. 155-199

Damascus in March is cold and windy, but in a few short weeks sheets of gray will give way to the brilliant blue and gold of summer. This particular day it is raining—not hard, but enough to make me glad to have worn a sweater and raincoat. In my navy London Fog, belt cinched around my waist to keep the coat from...

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6. Paying for the Honey

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pp. 200-239

Madam Zahara lives in a building on the fi rst level of the mountainside neighborhood of Muhajareen. For twenty years, she has been an active volunteer and promoter of education and charity work supporting poor families in Damascus. She calls these families victims of “hidden poverty” because they have a place to live and do not appear to be as poor as they really are. “Because the state helps to...

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7. Technology, Security, and Social Change

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pp. 240-281

Maysoun is one of a very small number of international businesswomen in Damascus. When I fi rst met her, she was in her midtwenties, unmarried, and fresh from an unsatisfying fi rst position working for an engineering fi rm. The people had not treated her well, she said, and so she had begun to work with the family business. In the beginning, she would help her father or brothers prepare to travel...

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8. Crafting Lives

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pp. 282-300

One of enduring questions in sociology has been how to conceptualize adequately the relationship between social structure and personal agency. Debates in gender studies about structure and agency have evidenced a paradigmatic shift away from social structural explanations of gender difference toward the negotiated and ongoing process of gender construction in the context of interpersonal interaction...


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pp. 301-302


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pp. 303-318


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pp. 319-335

Back Cover

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pp. 359-360

E-ISBN-13: 9780815651901
E-ISBN-10: 0815651902
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815632993
Print-ISBN-10: 0815632991

Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 2 tables
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 845242860
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Making Do in Damascus

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women -- Syria -- Damascus -- Social conditions -- 21st century.
  • Women -- Syria -- Damascus -- Economic conditions -- 21st century.
  • Work and family -- Syria -- Damascus.
  • Women -- Syria -- Damascus -- Identity.
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