University of Texas Press

Jamal and Rania Daniel Series in Contemporary History, Politics, Culture, and Religion of the Levant

Published by: University of Texas Press

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Jamal and Rania Daniel Series in Contemporary History, Politics, Culture, and Religion of the Levant

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Reconstructing Beirut

Memory and Space in a Postwar Arab City

By Aseel Sawalha

Once the cosmopolitan center of the Middle East, Beirut was devastated by the civil war that ran from 1975 to 1991, which dislocated many residents, disrupted normal municipal functions, and destroyed the vibrant downtown district. The aftermath of the war was an unstable situation Sawalha considers “a postwar state of emergency,” even as the state strove to restore normalcy. This ethnography centers on various groups’ responses to Beirut’s large, privatized urban-renewal project that unfolded during this turbulent moment. At the core of the study is the theme of remembering space. The official process of rebuilding the city as a node in the global economy collided with local day-to-day concerns, and all arguments invariably inspired narratives of what happened before and during the war. Sawalha explains how Beirutis invoked their past experiences of specific sites to vie for the power to shape those sites in the future. Rather than focus on a single site, the ethnography crosses multiple urban sites and social groups, to survey varied groups with interests in particular spaces. The book contextualizes these spatial conflicts within the discourses of the city’s historical accounts and the much-debated concept of heritage, voiced in academic writing, politics, and journalism. In the afterword, Sawalha links these conflicts to the social and political crises of early twenty-first-century Beirut.

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A Young Palestinian's Diary, 1941–1945

The Life of Sami 'Amr

Translated, annotated, and with an introduction by Kimberly Katz

Writing in his late teens and early twenties, S\am\i cAmr gave his diary an apt subtitle: The Battle of Life, encapsulating both the political climate of Palestine in the waning years of the British Mandate as well as the contrasting joys and troubles of family life. Now translated from the Arabic, S\am\i’s diary represents a rare artifact of turbulent change in the Middle East. Written over four years, these ruminations of a young man from Hebron brim with revelations about daily life against a backdrop of tremendous transition. Describing the public and the private, the modern and the traditional, S\am\i muses on relationships, his station in life, and other universal experiences while sharing numerous details about a pivotal moment in Palestine’s modern history. Making these never-before-published reflections available in translation, Kimberly Katz also provides illuminating context for S\am\i’s words, laying out biographical details of S\am\i, who kept his diary private for close to sixty years. One of a limited number of Palestinian diaries available to English-language readers, the diary of S\am\i cAmr bridges significant chasms in our understanding of Middle Eastern, and particularly Palestinian, history.

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