Family History in the Middle East Household, Property, and Gender by Beshara Doumani, ed. (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2003. 340 pages.)

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Ikran Eum

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Abstract

The study of families and their histories opens up a cross-disciplinary dialogue
among anthropologists, historians, and other social scientists, including
area specialists. The content of Doumani’s edited book, Family History
in the Middle East: Household, Property, and Gender, falls convincingly
into such disciplines as history, anthropology, Middle East studies,
women’s/gender studies, and Islamic studies, since the collection of articles
provides various indepth case studies drawn both from Islam and from
political, economic, legal, and social perspectives.
The anthology’s main theme suggests that the family is an entity that,
along with the progression of history, evolves continuously. By reconstructing
the family histories of elites and ordinary people in the Middle East from
the seventeenth to the early twentieth century, the book challenges prevailing
assumptions about the monolithic “traditional” Middle Eastern family
type. Instead, it argues cogently that the structure and boundaries of these
families have always been flexible and dynamic.
The book is divided into four sections that explore issues concerning
the family from the perspective of politics, economics, and law. In the first
section, “Family and Household,” Philippe Fargues, Tomoki Okawara, and
Mary Ann Fay analyze the structure of the nineteenth-century family and
household and illustrate how its formation was influenced by changes in the ...

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