Rethinking urban neighborhoods in late Ottoman bilad al-sham: the case of gaza

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Dokumentart: BookPart
Date: 2023-02
Source: Ben-Bassat, Yuval; Büssow, Johann: From the Household to the Wider World. Tübingen University Press, 2022
Language: English
Other Keywords: neighborhoods
neighborhood administration
urban-rural relations
urban morphology
Ottoman Tanzimat reforms
social clustering
spatialized factionalism
GIS analysis
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This chapter aims to provide a better understanding of the neighborhood as a crucial component of urban governance in late Ottoman Bilad al-Sham (Greater Syria). Taking as a case study the neighborhoods of late Ottoman Gaza, it examines the extent to which Gaza’s neighborhoods were social, administrative and political entities. In Gaza, a sizable part of the population was involved in two rival political factions that were based in neighborhoods at opposite ends of the city. While we have examined Gaza’s factionalism elsewhere, the discussion here is embedded in an analysis of the city’s morphology and its economic and social makeup. This approach helps to reveal the social characteristics of additional types of neighborhoods, beyond the official Ottoman administrative divisions. It also sheds light on the social background of additional types of political actors, beyond the political elite, such as muhtars, scribes, and imams. We show that Gaza was influenced by the flow of people and goods at the crossroads of two major caravan routes. A spread-out urban structure allowed kinship groups to settle in clusters. The nature of neighborhood boundaries was varied. Physically, they were permeable and allowed traffic to flow freely, including many city-dwelling peasants who commuted between the city and the rural area around it. Socially, as evidence on marriage relations suggests, there was a deep social rift between Gaza’s two competing commercial and religious centers. This dual urban struc- ture helped some elite families to build a viable opposition to the dominant political faction.

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