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The Barber of DamascusNouveau Literacy in the Eighteenth-Century Ottoman Levant$
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Dana Sajdi

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780804785327

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804785327.001.0001

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A Barber at the Gate

A Barber at the Gate

A Social and Intellectual Biography

(p.38) Chapter 2 A Barber at the Gate
The Barber of Damascus

Dana Sajdi

Stanford University Press

This chapter constructs the barber's social worlds and intellectual itinerary. It follows Ibn Budayr in Damascus to show his mobility from the impoverished outskirts of the city to the culturally and materially affluent center of intramural Damascus, where he set up shop and serviced the learned elites. Ibn Budayr's education is thus understood as a form of “learned illiteracy” (fuqahā’ umiyyūn)—learning acquired by artisans who regularly attended classes held near the bazaar. Emboldened by an improved social status, Ibn Budayr wrote a scholarly chronicle in the manner of his learned customers. In his chronicle, he uses the literary form of the tarjama (obituary notice), typically written by scholars about deceased scholars. In writing obituaries of the cultural elite, the barber manages to ensconce himself in their midst. The chapter shows how Ibn Budayr utilized his book-writing endeavor as both proof of social arrival and means to accumulate prestige.

Keywords:   Social biography, intellectual itinerary, intramural Damascus, learned illiterates (fuqahā’ umiyyūn), tarjama (obituary notice), cultural elite, social arrival, Ibn Budayr, barber, Damascus

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