World Philologies Seminar
Thu 22 Jun 2017 | 16:00–18:00

Cityscaping al-Ṣāliḥiyya: Arabic Prose Topographies 16th-18th Centuries

Dana Sajdi (Boston College); Chair: Islam Dayeh (Freie Universität Berlin)

Freie Universität Berlin, Holzlaube, Room 2.2059, Fabeckstr. 23-25, 14195 Berlin

If Ibn ʿAsākir (d. 1176) allowed for a new way of walking, viewing, and writing about Damascus to produce the first veritable urban topography and contemporary cityscape, Ibn Ṭūlūn (d. 1546) contributed to the new genre of suburban topographies in his rendition of his neighborhood, al-Ṣāliḥiyya. The valuation of al-Ṣāliḥiyya has to do not only with its location as a vantage point over the city of Damascus, its verdant gardens and pleasure parks, and its inclusion of important religious sites, but also with its history as a refuge for Hanbali scholars and families escaping the Crusaders from Palestine. This presentation, which is a part of a larger project about the topographies of Damascus between the 12th and 20th centuries, is a treatment of prose constructions of al-Ṣāliḥiyya by Ibn Ṭūlūn in the 16th century and Ibn Kannān (d. 1740) in the 18th century to see them as moments of ownership and contestation within and against the metropolis of Damascus. Beyond the specific site and moment of contestation, the larger argument has to do with the deployment of the genre of topography/landscape as a political instrument.

Dana Sajdi (Ph.D., Columbia University 2002) is Associate Professor of History at Boston College. She is the author of The Barber of Damascus: Nouveau Literacy in the Eighteenth-Century Ottoman Levant (2013, forthcoming in Turkish and Arabic); editor of Ottoman Tulips, Ottoman Coffee: Leisure and Lifestyle in the Eighteenth Century (2008, in Turkish 2014) and coeditor of Transforming Loss into Beauty: Essays in Arabic Literature and Culture in Memory of Madga Al-Nowaihi (2008). She is the recipient of several fellowships including from Princeton University, Wissenschfatskolleg zu Berlin (EUME); Research Center for Anatolian Civilization; and MIT-Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture. Her current project, “In Defense of Damascus: Arabic Prose Topographies, 12th-20th Centuries” is about an uninterrupted intertextual tradition of non-pictorial cityscapes of Damascus through which the citizens preserved certain images of their city against imperial consolidation and cooptation, on the one hand, and competition from other great cities, on the other. In tracing and examining these prose cityscapes, she hopes to also write a history of Damascus for both academic and lay audiences.

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