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Intimate Bodies, Violent Struggles: The poetics and politics of nuptiality in Syria

KASTRINOU, A. MARIA A. (2012) Intimate Bodies, Violent Struggles: The poetics and politics of nuptiality in Syria. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Caught between conflicting historical fantasies of an exotic Orient and images of the oppressive and threatening Other, Syria embodies both the colonial attraction of Arabesque par excellance simultaneously along with fears of civilization clashes. In anthropology the road to Damascus is a road less travelled, a road perilously understudied. Venturing on such a road, this ethnography is one of few contemporary anthropological accounts of Syria, and the first to situate itself among the Druze community as well as the transient spaces of/between the communal, the national and the global.

Undertaken in the years immediately preceding the so-called Arab Spring, and caught amidst the personal familial relations and ruptures of a close-knit sectarian community, the relationship between the intimate and the violent became central in framing the empirical and theoretical endeavour. The fine and fragile line between intimacy and violence was pervasive and raised questions such as: How are relations formed, performed, and challenged within the Syrian context? How are power relations of intimacy and violence embodied and to what extent are such relations constitutive of social reality within the contexts of the Syrian polity? Encountering issues of class, gender, sect, state, capitalist globalisation and Western governmentality, this thesis is based on fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork within the Druze community and dance research inside Syria. Specifically, this ethnography takes the nuptial body as the epicentre of historical, social, political and economic power relations, as a practical embattled territory, and traces the choreographies of power through Syrian bodies in (a) dances and transformative rituals within the Druze community, (b) on the state-funded stages of folklore festivals, and (c) through the European Union’s sponsoring and investing in Syrian professional dances. Choreographing power relations and clashes between/within empires, the thesis develops the concept of nuptiality as the relational idiomatic frame of violent intimacies that produce the body as an arena of contestations and struggles, a fragmented plane upon which power relations emerge.

But bodies move in elusive, subversive and powerful rhythms, simultaneously performing, defying and crystallising their own subjugations and transformations – it is these moving bodies, in intimate spaces that this ethnography is about. This theoretical approach, and its own intimate methodological forbearer, is used to challenge regnant theories of power and relationality in contemporary Syria, as well as essential purveyances of Arab bodies. Instead, the concept of nuptiality is used simultaneously to explain hegemonic quests for bodies, and the captivating force and fluidity of embodied everyday struggles.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Syria; Druze; politics; anthropology; intimacy; violence; Empire; body; dance
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Sep 2012 10:05

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