Coins, cosmopolitics and metropolitics: The legacy of generations in Syria’s regime of transformation
University of Edinburgh
Belligerently un-deposed, the brutal shortcomings of Syria’s Ba’thist regime are exposed to the world for criticism, yet the terms by which they have remained in power for over 40 years require explication. This paper addresses the co-constitution of family, nation-building and regime transformation in Syria by examining the entwining of political and familial generations since Syrian independence. The mass movement of the Syrian population from rural to urban and the shifting distribution of financial and social resources over the past 70 years is a lived and remembered process with ongoing political currency. In the late 2000s, economic liberalisation engendered the use of ‘open’ and ‘closed’ as shorthand when comparing Syria with other countries or its own recent past. Through these terms and discussions around flows of money my informants articulated the spatial and political extrusions, boundaries and trajectories, such as migration for work and education, which had defined their family-situated life-courses in relation to their changing nation-state. Financial contingency coloured their understanding of critical events, such as the wars with Israel, and of their position in the shifting terms of socio-economic class, such as their identity as urban citizens partaking in global markets. Money was a concern on which their temporality hinged; transmission of wealth entailed configurations of familial and political generations where comparisons were crystallized between them and us, past and present, and the terms of the future were projected. Coins acted as metaphors and story-telling aids to express lived transformations and the opportunities and limitations created by the Syrian regime between generations. Through monetary transmissions, negotiations and tensions between family generations, the legacies of political generations were wrought. Focusing on ‘money narratives’ this paper argues that configurations of historical and familial generations have crafted the distinct temporalising rhythm and scope of transformations and their historicity in Syria.
Key words: Generations, historical transformation, money, class, urbanisation, nation-building, cosmopolitics, Syria, Ba’thism.