Based on the experiences and incidents she collected during her field studies in Syria, anthropologist Nancy Lindisfarne wrote Dancing in Damascus, a collection of short stories, in the late 1980s.
[This review first appeared in German here in the Austrian socialist magazine Linkswende.]
Nancy Lindisfarne actually wanted to use the visit to a fellow student in the Syrian capital Damascus as an introduction to studies on the working class there. By chance, she got caught in the middle of the marriage policy of a wavering middle class, which fluctuated between tradition and “modernization” according to the Western model. In nine short stories, she describes the everyday life of a society under dictatorship, tells of the search for identity, gender roles, and the struggles for a self-determined life.
Jebel Druze – Landscape by Nancy Lindisfarne
Nancy Lindisfarne writes: Last week in Koblenz, Germany, a former Syrian intelligence officer, Eyad al Gharib, was found guilty of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity. It is an important verdict. It has formally exposed the scale, and appalling horror, of the crimes of the Syrian regime.
To mark this moment we are reposting a short story I originally published in Arabic in 1997. I did anthropological fieldwork in Damascus in the late 1980s, and from day one I saw the tyranny of the regime. But I knew the whole time I was in Syria, and then again when I tried out the stories on friends in Damascus, that for their sake, I could only hint at the fear everyone felt. As you can see here, the most politically explicit of my Syrian stories, ‘Fresh Apricots’, is little more than a bare whisper about a prisoner who has been fortunate enough to be released from Saydnaya prison.
In 1997, Mamdouh Adwan, the Syrian poet and playwright translated into Arabic a collection of short stories I had written after my year of fieldwork. Al Raqs fi Dimasq
was published in Syria before an English version, Dancing in Damascus
, came out in 2000.
But though a bare whisper, I also knew Syrian readers absolutely understood what I was trying to say.
Syrian refugees in Jordan, 2016
Lewis Turner writes about Syrian refugees in Jordan, He argues that ‘a person is not vulnerable because they are a man or a woman, but because of what being a man or a woman means in particular situations. A refugee response that automatically assumes that women and children are the most vulnerable will do a disservice to the community it seeks to serve.‘ Continue reading
American planes bombing Ramadi in October, 2015
Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale
An assault on the Iraqi city of Mosul by the United States, Iran, the Iraqi government, Kurdish forces and Shiah militias looks imminent. We can expect massive bloodshed and the destruction of most of the city.
Mosul is now held by ISIS. Different estimates suggest that between 600,000 and 1,500,000 people are still in the city. In the last year Iraqi and Iranian forces backed by the US bombs have retaken the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah from ISIS. In both cases, the whole city was flattened by American bombs, and almost all the people became refugees. Those two cities remain destroyed, and almost empty.
Because ISIS holds Mosul, every reactionary power in the world will welcome the bombing. On present form, almost the whole of the European and North American left will do nothing to protest the bombing, and many leftists will support the assault.
The position of most of the left makes us sick at heart. Do Muslim deaths not matter? Continue reading
Rida Hus-Hus 1939-2016
Nancy Lindisfarne writes:
The Syrian painter and printmaker, Rida Hus-Hus, died in Mannheim, Germany on the 30 July 2016 at the age of 77. His courage, uncomplicated generosity and celebration of all that was beautiful is to be remembered and cherished. His life drawings and portraits reflected his affection and interest in other people. Through still-life drawing and flower pictures he celebrated the joy of quotidian detail, while his vibrant pastels captured the sweeping landscapes outside of Damasus, and literally painted Syria in a most beautiful light. Yet Rida was also intensely political in the dangerous environment of the Assad dictatorship, and to keep himself sane, and preserve the independence of his art, he lived an extremely modest and cleverly managed life. Continue reading
Afghan Resistance, 1842
Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale
This article is about three intersecting wars in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The bombings in Paris occurred just as we were finishing the piece, and give our arguments here further tragic relevance.
This piece is 25,000 words long, and readers may find it easier to read by downloading the version here: Oil Empires 16Nov2015 FIN5.
It will help the reader to know from the outset where we stand. We want the mass resistance to the Assad regime in Syria to win, and the Russian armed forces and their allies to leave. We want the Americans and their allies to leave Afghanistan, now, completely. We want Assad and the American, British, French and Russian military to stop bombing the Syrian resistance and the Islamic State. Continue reading
Nancy Lindisfarne writes: The lunar month which began in mid-June this year is the Islamic month of Ramadan, the month of fasting and charity. This is a story to mark Ramadan, and one day in the life of Basima. At forty five, she is still unmarried, on the shelf, and as the youngest daughter of a large Syrian family, she has become the sole carer of her elderly, difficult mother.
This short story is set in Damascus in the 1990s, where I did a year’s anthropological fieldwork among well-to-do Damascenes. For me, unlearning academic writing and writing fiction was a lengthy and salutary experience. The impetus came from my anger and exhaustion at countering simplistic, popular stereotypes of Arab or Muslim women and men as fundamentalists, terrorists, or both. My hope then was that the stories might be a way to reach an audience beyond the academy. Continue reading
American bomber being prepared for flight
Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale write: Many people now argue that feminists should support the American and Iranian alliance against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Or they argue that we should support the American and Pakistani armed forces against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Many other feminists, and many on the left, are confused and unsure. But they also talk as if it was a straight choice between IS and the US, or between the Taliban and the US. ‘Both sides are morally repugnant,’ these people say, ‘but if I have to choose…’
This way of thinking ignores the fact that you are not just choosing between two sides, you are choosing between two ways of waging war. How you kill people is important, and has emotional and political consequences. It matters that American bombing from the air is more cruel, more unequal, kills more women, and kills more children than fighting that on the ground with guns. Continue reading
Women defendants at a mass trial of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Alexandria, Egypt, November 2013
Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale explain the changing international alliances in Middle Eastern politics, and how this is connected to rising Islamophobia in Europe.
In most of Europe and North America now there is only one acceptable form of racism: prejudice against Muslims. This is recent. Until 1978 in most of Europe and North America Muslims were often discriminated against because they were Asian, or Arabs, or people of colour. But in the US, Britain and many other countries they were not singled out for their religion. Continue reading
For Valentine’s Day, here is something light – a story by Nancy Lindisfarne from DANCING IN DAMASCUS, her collection of short stories about Syria in the 1990s (SUNY, 2000).
‘Come on. I’ll help you if you want.’ Rana grinned. She was lively, shiny, like her curly dark hair. And she was a gorgeous shape. So he didn’t really mind that she was also saying he was hopeless, the kind of guy who didn’t have the gumption to buy a Barbie doll for his kid. Continue reading