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Hirschler, Konrad (2007)
Publisher: EB-Verlag
Languages: English
Types: Part of book or chapter of book
Subjects: 700
This article deals with violent forms of ‘popular’ protest and revolt in Cairo and Damascus between the 7th/13th and the 10th/16th centuries. It focuses on the symbolic expressions employed during such periods of violence in order to refine currently employed concepts such as ‘mob-violence’, which tend to describe such events as irrational and spasmodic. The symbolic expressions are analysed with regard to three main themes that played a salient role: the urban spaces that were the theatre of these events, the acoustic and visual symbols employed by the participants and specific ‘rites of violence’, (e.g. the lynching of representatives of the military elite). It is shown, firstly, that protest and violence was often underlain by an internal logic and that the participants employed well-chosen (spatial, acoustic, visual etc.) symbols in order to express their aims, for example the appropriation and manipulation of the call to prayer. Due to the local perspective chosen, it is possible to detect distinct differences among the towns of Damascus and Cairo concerning such symbols, for example with regard to the spatial setting for articulating discontent. Secondly, it is shown that the popular rites of violence developed in close interplay with expressions of violence by the ruling elites. This interplay was reflected on the one hand by ‘affirmative rites’ that adopted and partly modified violent behaviour that was typical for the ruling elite. On the other hand it is possible to detect ‘negating rites’ that tend to refer to local symbols and refuse to follow established patters, such as the ‘execution’ of an officer at a prominent locality in the local quarter and not at one of the official places of execution. The article argues finally that the polysemantic character of these events will only be fully understood by further studies that adopt additional local perspectives.
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