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Family History in the Middle East

Household, Property, and Gender

Beshara Doumani

Publication Year: 2003

Despite the constant refrain that family is the most important social institution in Middle Eastern societies, only recently has it become the focus for rethinking the modern history of the Middle East. This book introduces exciting new findings by historians, anthropologists, and historical demographers that challenge pervasive assumptions about family made in the past. Using specific case studies based on original archival research and fieldwork, the contributors focus on the interplay between micro and macro processes of change and bridge the gap between materialist and discursive frameworks of analysis. They reveal the flexibility and dynamism of family life and show the complex juxtaposition of different rhythms of time (individual time, family time, historical time). These findings interface directly with and demonstrate the need for a critical reassessment of current debates on gender, modernity, and Islam.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in the Social and Economic History of the Middle East (discontinued)

Family History in the Middle East

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p. iii


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pp. vii-viii

Note on Transliteration and Pronounciation

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p. ix

List of Tables and Figures

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pp. xi-xii

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-19

As a nexus of interest and emotion on the cellular level of social organization, and as a key referential grid for the social imaginary, family is everywhere.1 It can be studied as a structure, a process, a cultural construct, and as a discourse. The considerable literature on history of the family in Europe and the..

I. Family and Household

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2. Family and Household in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Cairo

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pp. 23-50

The most salient characteristic of the family in mid-nineteenth-century Cairo, the largest Arab city, was extreme instability. Indeed, physical survival was precarious for everyone, primarily because the newly instituted measures of public hygiene were still too recent to bring about any effective social regulation of...

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3. Size and Structure of Damascus Households in the Late Ottoman Period as Compared with Istanbul Households

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pp. 51-75

For a long time, the social reality of family and household in the Ottoman Empire has been obscured as if by a heavy fog. This fog was somewhat broken up in the 1950s and 1960s by

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4. From Warrior-Grandees to Domesticated Bourgeoisie: The Transformation of the Elite Egyptian Household into a Western-style Nuclear Family

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pp. 77-97

In this chapter, I intend to theorize the transformation of the elite eighteenth-century Egyptian household into a Western-style, monogamous nuclear family. The eighteenth-century elite household was characterized by the slave origins of the members of the household, polygamy, concubinage, female...

II: Family, Gender, and Property

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5. Women’s Gold: Shifting Styles of Embodying Family Relations

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pp. 101-117

Although mainstream history remains by and large national history that focuses on the public activities of prominent men, the study of both family history and women’s history over the past few decades has rapidly developed into a presence of its own. My contribution on women’s gold as the embodiment...

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6. “Al-Mahr Zaituna”: Property and Family in the Hills Facing Palestine, 1880–1940 by

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pp. 119-170

Mahr, the object that the groom gives a bride as a condition of the Muslim marriage contract, would promise to be the epitome of gender- specific property, the object that would “make” the woman a married woman. Women’s jewelry, their...

III: Family and the Praxis of Islamic Law

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8. Adjudicating Family: The Islamic Court and Disputes between Kin in Greater Syria, 1700–1860

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pp. 173-200

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Islamic court and its archives to the history of family life in the urban centers of the Ottoman Empire. As the central institution in charge of, among other things, matters relating to personal status and property, the Islamic court constituted the principal...

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9. Text, Court, and Family in Late-Nineteenth-Century Palestine

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pp. 201-228

In this chapter I analyze some of the textual and orthographical features of the shari˜a court records in the port cities of Palestine, Jaffa, and Haifa, following the reforms of the Tanzimat. In this analysis these records constitute both source material for and an object of historical investigation. I discuss the...

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10. Property, Language, and Law: Conventions of Social Discourse in Seventeenth-Century Tarablus al-Sham

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pp. 229-244

Techniques for the writing of history evolve in relation to the sources employed. When new caches of documentation disrupt the historiography of a particular field, they do so by demanding a methodological reassessment. Ottoman historians encountered such a moment upon the addition of documents from local Islamic courts to their repertoire of historical...

IV Family as a Discourse

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p. 245

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11. Ambiguous Modernization: The Transition to Monogamy in the Khedival House of Egypt

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pp. 247-270

On Thursday, 16 January, 1873, a contract of marriage was agreed to between Tawfiq, the crown prince of Egypt, and Amina Ilhami, granddaughter of the late viceroy Abbas Hilmi I (r. 1849–54). In celebration of the event the reigning...

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12. “Queen of the House?” Making Immigrant Lebanese Families in the Mahjar

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pp. 271-299

“The woman was created for the house and the man for work, and it is shameful for the man and woman to exchange their jobs.”1 This unequivocal statement was part of an article written by Elias Nasif Elias, a Lebanese emigrant residing...


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pp. 301-327


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pp. 329-331


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pp. 333-340

E-ISBN-13: 9780791487075
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791456798
Print-ISBN-10: 079145679X

Page Count: 342
Illustrations: 18 tables, 5 figures
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: SUNY series in the Social and Economic History of the Middle East (discontinued)
Series Editor Byline: Donald Quataert See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 55896286
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Family History in the Middle East

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Middle East -- Social conditions.
  • Middle East -- History.
  • Families -- Middle East -- History.
  • Domestic relations (Islamic law) -- Middle East -- History.
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