ARAB STUDIES JOURNAL
VOL. XVI, NO. 1
We are proud to feature a collection of pieces that innovate new methodological approaches, confront the relationship between knowledge and power, and speak to the urgent concerns of the present, infrastructure, ecology, migration, and war. In “Epicures and Experts: The Drinking Water Controversy in British Colonial Cairo,” Shehab Ismail explores taste, class, and the environment. When in 1905 the Cairo Water Company altered its source of intake to deep wells instead of the Nile, it pitted experts, officials, and the urban poor in a battle over knowledge, medical traditions, and water practices. In tracing the five-year struggle in which the palate became a battleground, Ismail reveals how taste, as a mode of embodied knowledge became a site of confrontation between heterogenous epistemic persuasions. In “From Mandate Borders to the Diaspora: Rashaya’s Transnational Suffering and the Making of Lebanon in 1925,” Reem Bailony traces debates on the social, political, and economic constructions of Lebanon and Syria, both in the borders of the French Mandate and well outside of it. By placing mahjar studies and Middle East studies in close conversation, Bailony both calls for and provides a model for a methodology that transgresses the territorial confines of the nation-state. In doing so, she reveals the crucial role of the mahjar in consolidating Lebanon as nation- ally distinct from Syria and in need of different sectarian arrangements. Neha Vora and Ahmed Kanna contribute reflections on two decades of ethnographic experiences researching Dubai and other cities in the Arabian Penninsula. “De-exceptionalizing the Field: Anthropological Reflections on Migration, Labor, and Identity in Dubai,” explores and critiques scholarly identity and authority in a call to develop understandings of Gulf cities that address migration, diaspora, place, and belonging. Vora and Kanna thus put the individual experiences of politics, geography, racialization, and minoritization into conversation with the knowledge that is produced on these historical forces. Graham Pitts reveals how the “human ecology” of Lebanon evolved according to the logic of an expanding and retracting global capitalism in “The Ecology of Migration: Remittances in World War I Mount Lebanon.” In detailing the material and environmental history of migration as well as highlighting World War I, the famine, and remittances, Pitts traces a broader trajectory of Lebanon’s history. In “Writing Shame in Asad’s Syria,” Judith Naeff analyzes how the Syrian author Khaled Khalifa built feelings of shame into the literary structure of his novel No Knives in the Kitchens of this City. She traces the multiple forms of shame and how, like rot, its pervasive spread unravels relations. Shame, she suggests, is at once contagious and repulsive, and is one site to both reflect on and understand the unraveling of Syrian social landscapes under the Asads’ authoritarianism. We offer as always a robust set of reviews and review essays that feature the latest contributions to the study of the Middle East.