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Family Life in the Ottoman Mediterranean
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    Family Life in the Ottoman Mediterranean
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Book description

In writings about Islam, women and modernity in the Middle East, family and religion are frequently invoked but rarely historicized. Based on a wide range of local sources spanning two centuries (1660–1860), Beshara B. Doumani argues that there is no such thing as the Muslim or Arab family type that is so central to Orientalist, nationalist, and Islamist narratives. Rather, one finds dramatic regional differences, even within the same cultural zone, in the ways that family was understood, organized, and reproduced. In his comparative examination of the property devolution strategies and gender regimes in the context of local political economies, Doumani offers a groundbreaking examination of the stories and priorities of ordinary people and how they shaped the making of the modern Middle East.


'Beshara Doumani’s Family Life in the Ottoman Mediterranean is a mature work built on painstaking scholarship that breaks conventions in both family and legal history; moreover, it covers a period for which documentation is difficult and historiographic cliché abundant. Doumani combines control of juridical doctrine (the rules of the game) with longitudinal case material from the shariʿa court records to describe contrasting patterns of family life and property devolution in two major provincial towns - Tripoli and Nablus. The research tackles radical questions: how to explain major divergence in patterns of women’s entitlement under the same legal tradition, and how to document and to conceptualize political economies of family-property in such a way as to explain real difference under the law?'

Martha Mundy - Professor Emeritus, London School of Economics and Political Science

'In his superb social history of the differing property strategies pursued by Muslim families in contrasting Levantine settings, Beshara Doumani, our leading reader of the essential sources - the litigation records, wills and contracts preserved in the registers of the shariʿa courts - addresses pre-modern forms of estate planning based on the venerable Islamic legal institution of the private, or family endowment, and also makes important new observations concerning the agency of women.'

Brinkley Messick - Columbia  University, New York

'Brilliantly capturing the determined will of women to master their own fate, control family property, and live comfortable lives, Beshara Doumani’s comparative study of waqf and property devolution in Nablus and Tripoli from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries breaks through court cases to reveal how micro struggles over kinship and power expose the macro foundations of law and society of that period - and lay the foundation for the tools of modern state governance.'

Suad Joseph - Distinguished Professor, University of California, Davis

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See the Appendix for a fuller accounting of the Tripoli and Nablus shariʿa court registers.

Tripoli shariʿa court registers (sijillat maḥkamat Tarabulus al-sharʿiyya), numbers 1–70.
Nablus shariʿa court registers (sijillat maḥkamat Nabulus al-sharʿiyya), numbers 1–17.
Nablus . Documents from the ʿAbd al-Hadi, Khammāsh, Nimr, Smadi, and Tuqan families.
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