Cover of A Taste for Home by Toufoul Abou-Hodeib
A Taste for Home
The Modern Middle Class in Ottoman Beirut
Toufoul Abou-Hodeib

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April 2017
280 pages.
$65.00

Cloth ISBN: 9780804799799

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The "home" is a quintessentially quotidian topic, yet one at the center of global concerns: Consumption habits, aesthetic preferences, international trade, and state authority all influence the domestic sphere. For middle-class residents of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Beirut, these debates took on critical importance. As Beirut was reshaped into a modern city, legal codes and urban projects pressed at the home from without, and imported commodities and new consumption habits transformed it from within.

Drawing from rich archives in Arabic, Ottoman, French, and English—from advertisements and catalogues to previously unstudied government documents—A Taste for Home places the middle-class home at the intersection of local and global transformations. Middle-class domesticity took form between changing urbanity, politicization of domesticity, and changing consumption patterns. Transcending class-based aesthetic theories and static notions of "Westernization" alike, this book illuminates the self-representations and the material realities of an emerging middle class. Toufoul Abou-Hodeib offers a cultural history of late Ottoman Beirut that is at once global in the widest sense of the term and local enough to enter the most private of spaces.

About the author

Toufoul Abou-Hodeib is Associate Professor of History in the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History at the University of Oslo.

"With its clear prose, original framework, and convincing argument, Toufoul Abou-Hodeib's brilliant book takes us into turn-of-the-century Beiruti homes, revealing a world of taste, class makeup, transnational connections, and gender codes. Examining what makes Ottoman-Arab modernity modern, Abou-Hodeib reads domesticity as an integral component of nahda studies in a global context."

—Tarek El-Ariss, The University of Texas at Austin

"A Taste for Home is a sophisticated analysis of domesticity and modernity in a burgeoning late Ottoman port city. Toufoul Abou-Hodeib illuminates the complex tensions between the public and the private, taste and identity, consumption and ethics, the modern and the authentic. This book constitutes a fundamental contribution to the social history of the Middle East."

—A. Holly Shissler, University of Chicago

"With commanding elegance, Toufoul Abou-Hodeib marshals a stunningly wide range of texts and objects to tell a story about the materiality of taste and the political economy of domesticity at the turn of the 20th century. Historically grounded and globally informed, A Taste for Home provides an alternative narrative about the formation of the modern in ways that readers will find compelling and innovative."

—Beshara Doumani, author of Family Life in the Ottoman Mediterranean: A Social History