For this project, I used a document that talks about Aleppo, Syria in the early nineteenth century, particularly the the Syrian textile industry. The specific reason why I chose this document specifically is discussed in the “Archival Search” section of this blog post, but the main reason why I focused on this document is because it talks about my great-grandfather, Muhammad Khalil Mudarris, and effects that he had on Aleppo in the early nineteenth century. Using this document alone, I am going to remix it into two poems solely using the words that are already present in the text. One problem that I had anticipated is that creating a smooth-flowing poem with this document was going to be very difficult since the document is written in the form of a report or study, so there isn’t much emotion to include in the poem directly.
As I first started searching for documents to remix from, I looked through dozens of archived for anything that I could relate to. I started off with searching “Aleppo” since that is the city that I grew up in, but when I saw that there were absolutely no articles or documents that were relevant I looked for anything with “Syria”. Even after the generalized search, I unfortunately could not find any documents. I then took to google, trying to find anything that would relate to my life back in childhood, and a majority of the documents that I found were either news articles or op-ed’s about the Syrian Civil War and its consequences. The other articles that I found were narratives that talked about the history of Aleppo and Syria as a whole, and all the important artifacts and locations in Aleppo and Palmyra that were built over a millennium ago. Because of the lack of other documents I decided to move on with two documents, one about the Syrian Civil War and the other about the cultural and geographical history of Syria. After asking people for advice about what to write, including the Professors, I increasingly became demotivated to talk about those two documents particularly because I didn’t relate to them one bit. Surprisingly, a few days later I remembered a document that I was sent a while ago that talked about my great-grandfather. Even though I did not meet him personally, I grew up hearing about how much of an impact he had on Aleppo. For this reason, I looked the article up on google and instantly found it, and decided to remix it after re-reading it for the second time.
The text that I am remixing in this project is titled “Toward an analysis of class formation in Syria: Aleppo’s textile industrialists and workers during the mandate”, the author of which is Geoffrey D. Schad. The interesting thing about this text’s context is that it was written for a collected work of historical analysis called FRANCE, SYRIE ET LIBAN 1918-1946 by Nadine Méouchy. The author of the Archive, Nadine Méouchy, is a historian that specializes in Lebanon and Syria. She has lived and worked for over twenty years between Lebanon, Syria and Jordan and in 1997 founded the first French study program on the Mandate in Lebanon and Syria in Damascus. With this information, it becomes evident that the target audience for the works in this Archive is people that are not yet aware of the effects of the French mandate on Syria, as well as people that generally do not know much about Middle Eastern history. Creating an archive of many different people’s writings on the matter offers a diverse yet focused lesson on the history of the country.
- “Social Class”
social class gender, ethnicity, and religion
The reality was far more complicated,
In the Aleppine textile industry,
it was not uncommon for a man to begin his career as a handloom weaver,
this same person would enter into business on his own,
This “new artisanry” is perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Syrian working experience.
- “Muhammad Khalil Mudarris”
industrialists principal associates
Muhammad Khalil Mudarris
control policy politics
The bourgeoisie sought influence
with whatever regime was in power,
to defend and further its interests,
with the control of the company rested in the hands of members of the same few families,
and did not so much seek to create policy
as to influence it.
For both of these poems, I decided to have a mixed style. For the first part of the poem, I structured similarly to M. NourbeSe Philip’s ZONG!, with different words splattered away from each other. The rest of the poem then had a normal structure with sentences on each line. The main reason I did this is because I felt sticking to one form would be very limiting to getting the message across, especially since the text itself was very difficult to formulate small sentences to create a poem. In the process of writing the poem, I realize I could utilize the difference in form to my own advantage, and with that I made the ZONG!-inspired part serve as an introduction to the later part, with words and ideas that are central to the poem’s theme. I tried to show this most in the second poem, where the words “industrialists”, “principal associates”, “control”, “policy”, and “politics” all surround the name of my great-grandfather, Muhammad Khalil Mudarris.
For the first poem, I chose to talk about the social hierarchy in Syria according to the article. As mentioned in the article, ‘askar and ra’aya mean “rulers” and “ruled” respectively. For this poem, I decided to keep a lot of the original meaning in the original text about social class, but made it known that a person, no matter the background, could climb through the social ladder and “enter into business on his own”.
For the second poem, I wanted to focus more about what is said about my great-grandfather throughout the article, and highlight the issues that he faced. The main issues, as mentioned previously, are separate words that surround his name, and the sentences about the bourgeoisie are targeted towards him too, since he too was a business owner.
Overall, even though I had anticipated that forming a poem out of the document would be difficult, in hindsight it was not easier than I had expected. I think a big part of why it was difficult is because it is my first time writing a poem, but the fact that the document did not contain any ‘poetic’ language made it more difficult. Moreover, through the challenge of writing this poem I learned a lot about analyzing any type of text to create meaning that might not have been there before. Also, by thoroughly reading the document and fact-checking almost every sentence with my family, I learned a lot about the history of my own country as well!
Schad, Geoffrey D. “Toward an Analysis of Class Formation in Syria: Aleppo’s Textile Industrialists and Workers during the Mandate.” France, Syrie Et Liban 1918-1946 – Toward an Analysis of Class Formation in Syria: Aleppo’s Textile Industrialists and Workers during the Mandate, Presses De L’Ifpo, 1 Jan. 1970, books.openedition.org/ifpo/3194?lang=en.
“Nadine Méouchy.” Orient, www.lesclesdumoyenorient.com/_Nadine-Meouchy_.html.