Leila Hudson. Transforming Damascus: Space and Modernity in an Islamic City.

JurisdictionUnited States
Date22 June 2009

Leila Hudson. Transforming Damascus: Space and Modernity in an Islamic City. London: Tauris Publishers, 2008, 288 pages. Hardcover $ 79.50.

This book contributes to the social history of Damascus during a period of transition at the end of Ottoman rule. Hudson focuses on the changes that accompanied modernization during the new phase of western colonialism until Damascus became the capital of a new nation state. These changes range from secular values of national identity to new technologies and flow of ideas from the west. Hudson explains the multiple pathways of transformation that reflect its complexity, manifold processes and non-linearity. This explanation is different from the narratives of modernization theorists and Arab nationalist historians who perceive the process as linear.

Basing herself theoretically on Pierre Bourdeau, Hudson attempts to embed the study of economics, theoretically and historically into the ethnographic study of cultural values. The types of cultural capital that she considers are property, money, family, knowledge, and imperial and local power. She documents the changing patterns of how people spending and saving and are the circulation of knowledge, and of currencies. This method makes this study particularly significant.

Hudson uses a revisionist approach in her narrative, one that is based on what ordinary people, women...

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