THE HERMENEUTICS OF THE ARABIAN SŪQ
The research intends to offer a philosophical hermeneutic reading of the Arabian Sūq, considered a principal urban constituent of almost all Arab cities. The relevance of such a study is hinged on two observations relating to the bulk of reviewed literature. The first is concerned with some current presuppositions that confine the Arabian Sūq’s development to that of an Islamic city, minimizing its role in shaping the Pre-Islamic Arabian world. The second is related to the employed methods, most of which marginalize the value of Arab poetics as a tool for understanding the Arabian Sūq’s socio-urban experiences. Accordingly, the research examines the different patterns and structures of an Arabian Sūq’s lived experience at three historical instances—Pre-Islamic, Islamic and Post-Islamic, to identify whether and why its socially-constructed and/or poetic meaning has changed over time. Deploying Hans Georg Gadamer’s interpretive tools of the Hermeneutic Circle and Fusion of Horizons, this historical investigation intends then to compare ‘what is seen’ against ‘what is said,’ using a range of multidisciplinary evidences that are extracted from the region’s poetic heritage (poetry, literature, travel journals and philosophy), cultural products (architecture, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts and puppet shows) and everyday dialogues (interviews, social survey and anecdotes). By doing so, the research attempts to discover something new about Arabian Sūqs through its own dwellers’ ‘in-time’ experiences, descriptions and stories. The research concludes that despite the persistence of some particular spatial references, such as the fadaā/ tareeq duality, in the perception and experience of Arabian Sūqs, the understanding of Sūq-ness today points to some dialectic tensions relating to an Arab’s relationship to modernity, tradition and progress. The methodological application of this ‘new’ approach for investigating Arabian socio-urban relations substantiates the research’s contribution to knowledge, positioning it within the larger sphere of current theoretical discourses (phenomenologist, situationist and semiotic) that emphasize the importance of lived experiences—everyday practices—and poetics as key sources for understanding socio-urban phenomena.
- PhD