Damascus Dialogues

Chien-hua Huang, Lojain Al Wadi, Hazem Kurdali, Sara Faraon


This research studies the material reality of Damascus through the lens of craft. It aims to construct maps of trades and products made in Damascus starting from the subjective perspectives of the people that use them and those that make them. Both the subjective perspective of craft as an individual user or maker and an analytical reading of the city as a large spatial matrix of relations are crucial here to simultaneously represent the characteristics of Damascus from both micro and macro scales. Although craft is normally practiced on smaller scales compared to industrialized production methods, it might nevertheless reflect cultural and social influences and practices at larger scales, especially in Damascus, a city with a long mercantile past that has established traditions of trade and manufacturing. The study focuses on contemporary local craft that is widely practiced, not the more general cultural patrimony that extends into the past. It is critical to the research that the craftsmanship be contemporary and active in the local economy. The methodology of this research encourages the application of various tools and media – Instagram, Facebook, street Map, cameras, data mining, etc. – as a means to collect and archive actual fragments of information and visualizations through the eyes of individual subjects. This approach to digital media also suggests that we need to incorporate new and novel ways of understanding urban space. Essentially, through a conscious, tool-oriented investigation of material culture, this research tries to understand the networks and relations of matter that compose the past, current, and potential future of everyday life of Damascus.