Legitimacy and Notables in Ottoman Jerusalem: A Case Study of Bayt Al-Dajani Using Waqfs and Marriage Records
71 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2012 Last revised: 26 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2004
The political economies of cities throughout the Middle East during the Ottoman era experienced multiple changes. Two prominent theories exist which vie to characterize these changes: neo-Marxism and Albert Hourani’s politics of notables. While neo-Marxism effectively characterizes the transition of political economies in commercial port cities such as Tunis, Beirut, and Alexandria, it does not accurately characterize land-locked cities such as Jerusalem. A more applicable theory to Jerusalem’s transition is found in Hourani’s politics of notables. This thesis uses waqfs and marriage records to trace the socioeconomic and political ascent of a prominent Jerusalem family to reveal patterns of legitimacy and notables in Jerusalem – key ingredients in a politics of notables.
Waqf records reveal that the Dajani family inherited prominent endowments from the Ottoman government and subsequently maintained and expanded these inheritances. Politically speaking, the Ottomans raised the Dajani clan to elite status and so enabled it to become one of several notable families which legitimized Ottoman rule over Jerusalem. The Dajani’s value to the Ottomans increased as members of its subsequent generations branched out into educational, legal, and administrative roles. As that development occurred, marriage records reveal that the Dajani’s intermarried with other prominent clans, thereby contributing to their overall social ascent. The ascent of Bayt al-Dajani into Jerusalem’s elite circles attests to a politics of notables in Jerusalem and reveals a unique perspective into the political economy of Jerusalem during the Ottoman era.
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