Dana Sajdi is an associate professor of history at Boston College. She is interested in how and why new genres and forms of literature and texts are born in response to specific social and political circumstances. Her most recent book The Barber of Damascus: Nouveau Literacy in the Eighteenth-Century Ottoman Levant (Stanford University Press, 2013; Turkish and Arabic translations, 2018) is about a phenomenon of the writing of history by commoners and non-scholars in 18th-century Ottoman Syria, with a special focus on the life and work of a barber, Ibn Budayr.
At Radcliffe, she is writing “In Defense of Damascus: Arabic Prose Cityscapes, 12th–20th Centuries.” This history book is based on her identification of a genre and tradition of Arabic prose descriptions of Damascus, which she calls “cityscapes,” that lasted between the 12th and 20th centuries. She will take the texts’ authors—all native citizens—as protagonists and guides to the city, inviting the readers to discover a neighborhood, luxuriate in a monument, or promenade in a pleasure park. This will be a new and long-term history of Damascus.
She received her BA in theater and sociology at the American University in Cairo and her MA and PhD in Middle Eastern and Asian languages and cultures at Columbia University. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations, and Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.