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    Just taxes? tracing 14th century Damascene politics through objects, space and historiography

    Olsen, Rasmus Bech (2017) Just taxes? tracing 14th century Damascene politics through objects, space and historiography. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    In this thesis, I explore the political culture in Damascus during the 7th/13th and 8th/14th centuries by examining the symbolic practices through which sultanic rulers and their subjects negotiated local power relations. As my point of departure, I use a protest against Mamluk tax policies that took place in 711/1311. I argue that this protest should not be understood as a spontaneous outburst of popular anger, but as a meaningful political act that reflects the wider political culture of the period and lends itself to interpretation of multiple levels. First, I demonstrate how the 711 protesters engaged in a multi-layered form of visual communication by carrying objects that referenced local identity, contemporary politics and Islamic history. I then contextualise the protest within the urban landscape of medieval Damascus. By exploring the historical development of procession routes and parade grounds in Damascus, I argue that the choice of venue that characterised this and later protests was based on a desire to appropriate spatial nodes in the topography of sultanic power. I then turn to the Umayyad Mosque as the antithesis of the ceremonial culture of the military parade ground. I argue that the protesters of 711 used visual references to the mosque in their procession, especially by placing the khaṭīb (Friday preacher) as leader of the procession, but that his participation must also be understood in the light of his wider socio-political role. Finally, I examine the narrative sources through which we access this and other political events in Mamluk Damascus. I argue that the use of these narratives as a source for political history must be accompanied by a comparison of how individual authors frame the same events and critical reflection on how representations of historical events are shaped by and shape the overarching agendas of their respective works.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2017 16:16
    Last Modified: 09 Jun 2021 18:30


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