Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

New review: ‘Men of Capital’

Electronic Intifada, 14th January 2016

Defying stereotypes of Mandate-period Palestinians as divided between a distant, dislocated upper class of “notables” and a majority of uneducated, rebellious peasants, Seikaly charts the complexities of Palestinian society of the time. Her subjects are the emergent middle classes — traders, lawyers, accountants, businessmen and senior officials (and their wives).
The portrait is fascinating, but far from idealized. Many of the attitudes she describes were snobbish and elitist. “Maids and servants,” one radio broadcaster on domestic issues warned, must not be allowed to imbibe socialist ideas about workers’ rights from foreign radio programs.
Contrary to simplistic ideas of the relationship between ideas and lifestyles in colonial Palestine, however, the classes she follows cannot just be dismissed as unthinkingly Westernizing themselves and their families or adopting colonial ideas.

The full review is here.

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