A vivid and intricate study of dance music traditions that reveals the many contradictions of being Syrian in the 21st century
Dabke, one of Syria's most beloved dance music traditions, is at the center of the country's war and the social tensions that preceded conflict. Drawing on almost two decades of ethnographic, archival, and digital research, Shayna M. Silverstein shows how dabke dance music embodies the fraught dynamics of gender, class, ethnicity, and nationhood in an authoritarian state. The book situates dabke politically, economically, and historically in a broader account of expressive culture in Syria's recent (and ongoing) turmoil. Silverstein shows how people imagine the Syrian nation through dabke, how the state has coopted it, how performances of masculinity reveal—and play with—the tensions and complexities of the broader social imaginary, how forces opposed to the state have used it resistively, and how migrants and refugees have reimagined it in their new homes in Europe and the United States. She offers deeply thoughtful reflections on the ethnographer's ethical and political dilemmas on fieldwork in an authoritarian state. Silverstein's study ultimately questions the limits of authoritarian power, considering the pleasure and play intrinsic to dabke circles as evidence for how performance cultures sustain social life and solidify group bonds while reproducing the societal divides endemic to Syrian authoritarianism.
Acknowledgements • Notes on Spelling, Transliteration, and Searchability • Introduction • Part I Folkloric Dance • Interlude • Chapter One: Virtuous Figures • Chapter Two: Staging Difference • Part II Everyday Performance • Interlude • Chapter Three: Floating Rhythms • Chapter Four: Sonic Spectacularity • Part III Conflict and Displacement • Interlude • Chapter Five: Conflicting Movements • Chapter Six: Translating Syrianness • Coda • References • Index
SHAYNA M. SILVERSTEIN (Evanston, IL) is assistant professor in the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University.
"This book documents decades of Dabke study, building on an intricate and subtle reading of contemporary ethnomusicology, anthropology, political science and cross-disciplinary domains concerned with embodiment, gender and sexuality, flow, the senses, to offer an ambitious and intricate theorization of 'hearing' rooted in movement and distributed 'balance.' There is no other book like this in the field."~Martin Stokes, author of The Republic of Love
"This is a landmark study. Its engaging discussion, theoretically rich analytical framework, and fine-grained ethnographic detail make it a unique contribution to the literature on Syria, the Arab World, the MENA region, and, in fact, in the study of 'ethnochoreology' globally."~Jonathan H. Shannon, author of Performing al-Andalus: Music and Nostalgia around the Mediterranean
"Silverstein conducts an illuminating choreographic analysis that reveals how Dabke assists in the construction of national, local, class, and gender identities in ways that both challenge and reinforce power relations."~Susan Leigh Foster, Distinguished Professor, UCLA