Mountain against the Sea: Essays on Palestinian Society and Culture

Mountain against the Sea: Essays on Palestinian Society and Culture

Mountain against the Sea: Essays on Palestinian Society and Culture

Mountain against the Sea: Essays on Palestinian Society and Culture

Synopsis

This groundbreaking book on modern Palestinian culture goes beyond the usual focal point of the 1948 war to address the earlier, formative years. Drawing on previously unavailable biographies of Palestinians (including Palestinian Jews), Salim Tamari offers eleven vignettes of Palestine's cultural life in the momentous first half of the twentieth century. He brings to light the memoirs, diaries, letters, and other writings of six Jerusalem intellectuals whose lives spanned (and defined) the period of 1918-1948: a musician, a teacher, a former aristocrat, a doctor, a Bolshevik revolutionary, and a Jewish novelist. These essays present an integrated cultural history that illuminates a watershed in the modern social history of the Arab East, the formulation of the Arab Enlightenment.

Excerpt

The chapters in this volume address two main themes. The first part of the book provides an interpretation of social changes common to contemporary societies of the eastern Mediterranean. These changes include the emergence of a cultural divide between mercantile coastal communities and mountain-dwelling smallholder peasants. This divide became more tangible precisely when the two regional economies became more capitalized and more integrated with European and Mediterranean trade networks, thus enhancing the cultures’ difference. The book also addresses the relationship between village communities and the urban centers that have dominated them in the recent past through absentee landlordism; the ethnography of protonationalism; and the emergence of a small-town milieu as a backdrop to a reactive ideology of particularistic localism and a more recent ideology of religious triumphalism. This religious ideology emerged after the military encirclement of the PLO in Lebanon in the 1980s, and since then it has begun to replace the tradition of urban liberalism that emerged with the Ottoman reforms and during the British Mandate period, and the secular nationalism that marked Palestinian and Arab political culture for most of the twentieth century.

The second part of the book contains biographies of members of the Jerusalemite intelligentsia at the turn of the twentieth century. These illuminate a critical watershed in the modern social history of Palestine, and indeed the whole Arab East, the moment when the reading public . . .

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