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New Texts Out Now: Sally Gallagher, Making Do in Damascus

Jadaliyya, an independent ezine produced by the Arab Studies Institute recently talked with Sally Gallagher about her recent book Making Do in Dagallaghermascus: Navigating a Generation of Change in Family and Work

 Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book?

Sally Gallagher (SG): I have had a long interest in gender and economic development, and had the opportunity to begin a study of the effects of participating in an income-generating project for women in Damascus just as it was getting started. This was a really great opportunity to watch change in the making, rather than go in after the fact and ask people: how is your life different? Slowly I was able to begin building contacts among networks of women across social classes, and was able to then address broader questions about how religion, gender, and social class work together.

J: What particular topics, issues, and literatures does it address?

SG: The main question the book addresses is how women draw on, and in some cases are able to reshape, gender ideals to make a life for themselves over a generation of economic and technological change. There has always been interest within sociology in how people’s individuality and free choice is both constrained by their society and how people also use their values, resources, and personal connections to change society. That question is at the heart of this book—how do women’s material and social resources shape the ways they are limited by, but also draw on, recast, and creatively use ideals around gender (for example, what it means to be a good daughter, wife, and mother) to make a space for their lives?

Between 1992 and 2011 I traveled to Damascus ten times, typically staying from one to four months, spending innumerable hours talking, shopping, drinking tea, preparing meals, and visiting women and their families across the city. This style of research allowed me to address questions of personal experience, identity, and meaning in a much more fine-tuned way than would have been possible with a larger social survey even if it had been possible at the time to obtain the required permissions or obtained an adequate response rate in communities unaccustomed to survey research.

Since I started visiting in Syria in 1992, a lot has changed; talking with women as these changes were happening—as many of them graduated from high school and went on to university, to work part time, to marry and have children—the book is able to explore the ways in which women are limited, but also able to turn those limitations to their advantage.

Read the full interview here:
New Texts Out Now: Sally Gallagher, Making Do in Damascus

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